2 Cheetahs arrive at Wildlife World Zoo

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

LITCHFIELD PARK, Ariz. -- The Wildlife World Zoo & Aquarium has completed its new Safari Park with the addition of two young cheetahs.

The unrelated male and female cheetahs were born just over one year ago at the Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre in South Africa, which is largely credited with preserving the threatened species. According to the Wildlife World Zoo, more than 800 cubs have been born at the center since 1971.

Although the cheetah is the fastest land mammal on Earth, its sleek body shape makes it vulnerable to large predators like hyenas and lions. This competition combined with a cub mortality rate of about 60 percent, a natural "bottleneck" that has severely limited genetic variation among the entire population, and conflict with humans has made the species vulnerable to extinction.

Cheetahs used to be found across much of Africa and Asia, but the population is now restricted to shrinking and increasingly isolated dry grassland and savanna habitats in Africa.

The zoo launched its 15-acre Safari Park in January as part of its 30th anniversary celebration, increasing the zoo's developed area to about 80 acres.

With the Safari Park collection plan of species now complete, attention is turning to the zoo's next major expansion on 15 more acres of land along State Route 303. Nicknamed "Adventure Land," the addition will include species from the Americas such as bears and mountain lions. It will also have several ride attractions.