Our short time in San Diego was good for many reasons, not the least of which was the San Diego Zoo and it’s sister the Safari Park. Weather permitting, the Safari Park hosts a cheetah run daily. It is something to behold. To get a decent spot, arrive early (about an hour before the start time) and stack out a spot mid way down the track (about where the balloon is adjacent to it).
Purr Kitty, Purr
I might have been disappointing at the “failure” of my my first attempt to watch the cheetah run at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. It was raining on and off. The handlers scrubbed the run as a precaution against the cheetah injuring itself. The consolation was an up-close and personal encounter in a tent.
Did you know that cheetahs purr? Neither did I, but they do, loudly. During the half hour encounter, the cheetah (and her dog friend) walk around the outside edge of the tent we were in, stopping just feet from us. The cheetah was purring loudly the entire time.
Holy **** – An Actual Run
We live in the internet age. I’d wager money that every man, woman and child over the age of 4 or 5 has seen video of a cheetah running. National Geographic even made some spectacular tracking video of a captive run at very high frame rate (worth a watch).
I’m going to tell you straight: you haven’t seen shit. I wouldn’t have believed that either, until I was present at a run at the safari park.
Truth by told, I “saw” 3 runs through the lens of my camera. I am a photographer after all. But, the last trip we made, I put the camera down and just watched. As the cheetah passed the half way point on the track, I uttered an involuntary “holy ****.”
No picture, nor video can do justice to the experience of watching a cheetah EXPLODE off the line and storm up the 100 meter track. It’s a dance of muscle and bone hurtling itself down the track, matched, at least for speed, by no other earthbound creature.
If you get a chance to go to the Safari Park, go, and be there for the cheetah run. And, unless you are a practiced wild life photographer with good gear, just leave your phone in your pocket and your camera in the bag.
Life, Death and Treats
It’s all fun and games at the safari park, but in the wild, for the cheetah, speed is life. Evolution has shaped them into a specialized wonder that is faster than all other terrestrial animals on earth.
Of course, at the Safari Park, the cheetah always makes a kill at the end of it’s run. The handler shoves a bowl of freshly ground raw meat and blood under the cheetah’s nose as soon as it arrests it’s immense speed.
Yes, those are skid marks in the grass where the cheetah’s paws have ripped up the grass as it attempts to stop as quickly as it launched.
Even after the bowl of food is gone, the cheetah has an expectation, quite reasonably from my point of view, of more tasty raw meat treats as it walks back up the run.