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Sarah, Cincinnati Zoo's cheetah, sets world land-speed record for mammals

September 14, 2009 |  9:29 pm


On her very first try, the Cincinnati Zoo's 8-year-old cheetah, Sarah, broke a land-speed record for mammals last week -- and, shortly thereafter, celebrated by breaking her own record in her second run. 

In Sarah's first record-breaking run, she covered 100 meters in 6.16 seconds.  She shaved .03 seconds off that time with her second run, sprinting 100 meters in 6.13 seconds. 

The zoo announced in July that Sarah would attempt to break the previous record of 6.19 seconds, which was set in 2001 by a male cheetah in South Africa.  Another South African cheetah, a female named Zaza, will also attempt a record-breaking run; Zaza's attempt had been planned for August until bad weather forced it to be rescheduled, and she's now expected to try to break Sarah's record within the next month.  

Cincinnati Zoo staff originally planned for Sarah to run at the Kentucky Speedway, but eventually arranged for it to take place on more familiar turf -- its own Regional Cheetah Breeding Facility -- where they felt Sarah would feel more comfortable and have a better shot at breaking the record.  The course where she set her record was certified by the Road Running Technical Council of USA Track & Field, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports.

According to Cathryn Hilker -- who founded the Cincinnati Zoo's Cat Ambassador program, in which zoo staffers take cheetahs to schools and other programs to spread the word about the dangers they face in the wild -- all this talk about world records isn't just for fun.  She also hopes it will help "to raise awareness of the plight of the cheetah." Only about 12,000 or fewer cheetahs are thought to remain in the wild in Africa, and an even smaller wild cheetah population remains in Iran. 

Sarah's fastest 100-meter run was more than 3 seconds faster than the world's fastest man, Usain Bolt of Jamaica, whose fastest time for the same distance is 9.58 seconds.

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: Sarah runs to set her new record.  Credit: Michael E. Keating / Associated Press
Video: CincinnatiZooTube via YouTube
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