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Wildlife Wednesdays: Cheetahs at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Nature’s Track Stars

Cheetahs are one of the two species of big cats (lions are the other) featured in the new Disneynature film, “African Cats,” which premieres on Earth Day (April 22).

A Cheetah at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Right here at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Guests can see cheetahs on the Kilimanjaro Safaris. In celebration of the soon-to-be released film, I thought I’d share a couple photos of the cheetahs that make their home at Disney’s Animal Kingdom as well as a few cheetah fun facts from the Educator’s Guide developed by members of the Disney’s Animal Programs team and available on the “African Cats” website.

Did you know?

  • Cheetahs are like track stars, with every part designed for speed. When they spot prey they can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in only three seconds. That’s faster than most cars! At full speed, a cheetah can run 70 mph for short distances and cover an amazing 92 feet in a single second.
  • Long legs, a flexible collar bone and a springy backbone that bends in both directions help cheetahs take long, ground-covering strides. A cheetah moving at top speed can cover over 20 feet in a single stride.
  • Like cleats on a track shoe, the cheetah’s long claws help them grip the ground as they run. Unlike those of other cats, the claws of a cheetah are always extended. In fact, cheetahs are the only cats that can’t fully retract their claws.
  • Enlarged nostrils, heart, lungs, liver and sinuses provide the cheetah’s muscles with the extra oxygen and blood they need to function at top speeds. The cheetah’s adaptations help the cheetah to stretch further, take longer strides and run faster than any other land mammal.
  • Cheetahs have fantastic vision that helps them spot prey as far as 3 miles away. The dark tear marks below the eyes may help keep the sun’s glare out of their eyes, similar to sunglasses.
  • Their tawny coat with round black spots helps the cheetah blend into grasses and breaks up a cheetah’s silhouette, making it easier to hide from other predators and stalk prey.

Cheetahs at Disney's Animal Kingdom

You can help cheetahs and other African wildlife by seeing Disneynature’s “African Cats” during the film’s opening week — a portion of the proceeds from ticket sales will be donated to the African Wildlife Foundation through the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund to ensure the future of lions, cheetahs, elephants, zebras, giraffes and a host of other animals on the African savanna.

The DWCF has contributed more than $900,000 to cat conservation projects since 1995. Of this, more than $350,000 has benefited cat species in Africa. To learn more about how the DWCF is helping cheetahs, lions and other species in Africa and around the world, visit www.disney.com/conservation.

Take a closer look at more of the animals that call Disney’s Animal Kingdom home: