AZA News Releases

Join AZA-Accredited Zoos and Cheetah Conservation Fund in Celebrating International Cheetah Day, Dec

Washington, D.C. – The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) will join Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) in inviting wildlife lovers from all over the globe to celebrate the world’s fastest feline on International Cheetah Day this Thursday, December 4. This year marks the fifth anniversary of this special occasion designed to generate awareness about the plight of the cheetah, which, with fewer than 10,000 remaining in the wild, is Africa’s most endangered big cat. International Cheetah Day aims to educate- young learners about the species and its conservation, as well as inspire people of all ages to get involved with conservation efforts.

“The cheetah is really the most iconic, coolest cat of all,” said Dr. Laurie Marker, Founder and Executive Director of Cheetah Conservation Fund. “You could say that I’m partial, but I can’t imagine a world without cheetahs. Please help us save this species by posting to social media on December 4 using the hashtags #IntlCheetahDay and #SaveTheCheetah.”

“Extinction is forever, and that is why it is so important for everyone to work together to protect the future of wildlife species,” said Dr. Debborah Luke, AZA’s Senior Vice President of Conservation and Science. “AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums work collaboratively with one another, as well as with conservation partners such as CCF to help species like the cheetah, but it is the awareness and support of the public that helps make an ever bigger, more positive impact. International Cheetah Day gives all of us a great opportunity to remember what steps we can all take to help save this species.”

To celebrate this special day, AZA and CCF are encouraging nature fans to learn more about cheetahs and help raise conservation awareness by taking part in events and/or social media activities being held by participating AZA-accredited facilities. CCF also suggests 10 additional ways to join in International Cheetah Dayfestivities:

1. Be a wildlife ambassador. Tell your friends and family about the cheetah.

2. Visit www.internationalcheetahday.org and sign-up to host a cheetah event. Check out what other people around the world are doing to celebrate International Cheetah Day.

3. Swap your online profile photo for a cheetah. Choose one here

4. Join the conversation on Twitter by using the hashtags, #SaveTheCheetah & #IntlCheetahDay.

5. Download the Conservation Passport designed by CCF education specialists in Namibia. Print out your very own Certificate of Cheetah Achievement when you finish your passport!

6. Watch and share this special International Cheetah Day video message from Jeff Corwin.

7. Download a template to make your own way-cool cheetah mask. It’s fun to impersonate a cheetah! Post a photo of yourself and your cheetah mask to CCF’s Facebookpage (Mask also included in the Cheetah Activity Packet—see information below).

8. Text to Give a $10 donation to CCF by texting “Cheetah” to 27722.

9. Get some stylishcheetah gear from the CCF Store, at Cafe’ Press, so you can spark conversation about the cheetah all year ‘round.

10. Sponsor/adopt a resident cheetah from CCF’s sanctuary. Click to Sponsor a Cheetah!

International Cheetah Day-themed events and/or social media activities will take place at several AZA-accredited facilities, including: BREC’s Baton Rouge Zoo, Brevard Zoo, Busch Gardens Tampa, Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens, Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, David Traylor Zoo of Emporia, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, El Paso Zoo, Houston Zoo, Indianapolis Zoo, Little Rock Zoo, Phoenix Zoo, Rolling Hills Zoo, Saint Louis Zoo, Scovill Zoo, Texas State Aquarium, The Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden, and The Wilds. (Note: Please be sure to check directly with the facility for details.)

AZA-Accredited Facilities and Cheetah Conservation

Between 2010 and 2014, 46 AZA-accredited zoos & aquariums reported taking part in a variety of field conservation projects benefitting cheetahs. Over those five years, the AZA community invested over $1.2 million in cheetah conservation. AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums provide critical financial support to on-the-ground conservation partners like CCF and others, such as Action for Cheetahs in Kenya and Cheetah Conservation Botswana. Several institutions directly supported CCF’s Livestock Guarding Dog Program (LGD), a program focused on breeding and training dogs to patrol livestock farms as a non-lethal method of preventing conflict with cheetahs and other predators, thus improving affected farmers’ relationships with wild cheetahs and preventing persecution.

Additionally, in May 2015, AZA and its 230 accredited facilities announced a bold new effort focused on saving species from extinction and restoring them to desirable populations in the wild. AZA SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction will deepen the already substantial science and conservation work focused on endangered species that is occurring at AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums by working with partners and engaging the 180 million annual aquarium and zoo visitors across the world to protect habitat, reduce threats, and restore populations to sustainable levels. 

As part of this effort, leadership and members of the AZA-accredited zoo and aquarium community worked intensively over the past two years to identify species that are in need of conservation efforts. These species are critical to maintaining healthy ecosystems, and zoos and aquariums have unique expertise and resources to improve their conservation status. To begin, SAFE will focus on 10 species/taxa from that list: African penguins, Asian elephants, black rhinoceroses, gorillas, sea turtles, sharks and rays, vaquitas, western pond turtles, whooping cranes, and cheetahs.

Already as a result of AZA SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction, professionals representing the AZA community sponsored and helped to organize a workshop to update and assess progress toward the Southern Region Strategy of the Rangewide Conservation Program for Cheetah and African Wild Dogs – the first time this group has met since 2007. Held in Johannesburg, South Africa in August 2015, the meeting brought together representatives from seven national governments and close to 20 conservation organizations, including CCF. Meeting attendees identified that there is a continuing need to reduce human-predator conflict, providing training in field methodology and other skills, and reducing snaring and illegal trade. The group also worked to update the range maps for both species to show which areas have resident populations, which are corridors supporting animal movement through non-resident areas, and what areas potentially suitable for supporting these species. Additionally, the group identified opportunities for AZA SAFE and AZA members to further assist in these conservation efforts.

You can learn more about cheetahs at AZA-accredited facilities and are invited to learn more about AZA SAFE by visiting https://www.aza.org/safe/.

Additional Resources and Information: 

 CCF’s Cheetah Activity Packet, cheetah photos, videos and social media links are available to download for free at www.cheetah.org and www.internationalcheetahday.org.

History of International Cheetah Day

With more than 40 years’ experience working with the species, Dr. Marker is widely recognized as a leading expert on the cheetah. She designated Dec. 4 as International Cheetah Day in remembrance of Khayam, a cheetah she raised from a cub at Wildlife Safari in Winston, Oregon. Dr. Marker was inspired to take Khayam to Namibia to determine if captive-born cheetahs could be taught to hunt. Their efforts were successful and eventually, the pair returned to Oregon. But during this experience, Dr. Marker witnessed wild cheetahs being exterminated by African farmers and vowed to do something about it. In 1990, she launched CCF and permanently relocated to Namibia. Because of Khayam, Dr. Marker dedicated her life to becoming the cheetah’s champion, and she chose Khayam’s birthday for this honor.

The cheetah is not only the fastest, but it is also the oldest of all the big cats. It has survived more than three million years through the Ice Age and a genetic bottleneck, but its numbers have declined by almost 90 percent in the last 100 years due to human-wildlife conflict and habitat loss. With fewer than 10,000 remaining in the wild, the world’s cheetah population is at great risk of extinction.

About the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF)

Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) is the global leader in research and conservation of cheetahs. It is a non-profit trust headquartered in Namibia, and a USA 501c3 with offices in Alexandria, Virginia. CCF is dedicated to saving the cheetah in the wild. CCF believes that understanding the cheetah's biology, ecology, and interactions with people is essential to conserve the cheetah in the wild. The strategy is a three-pronged process of research, conservation and education, beginning with long-term studies to understand and monitor the factors affecting the cheetah's survival. Results are used to develop conservation policies and programs. CCF works with local, national and international communities to raise awareness, communicate, and educate.  

About AZA

Founded in 1924, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the advancement of zoos and aquariums in the areas of conservation, animal welfare, education, science, and recreation. AZA is the accrediting body for the top zoos and aquariums in the United States and seven other countries. Look for the AZA accreditation logo whenever you visit a zoo or aquarium as your assurance that you are supporting a facility dedicated to providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for you, and a better future for all living things. The AZA is a leader in saving species and your link to helping animals all over the world. To learn more, visit www.aza.org.


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