Cheetahs' new home opens at Marwell Wildlife

image captionThe new living area has resting places for the cheetahs

A new purpose-built facility for cheetahs has opened at a Hampshire zoological park.

Savannah Tracks doubles the size of living space for three cheetahs, Turkus, Juba and Suki, at Marwell Wildlife near Winchester.

The 7,600-sq-m (1.9 acre) enclosure mimics their natural grassland habitat with large boulders and shady resting places.

It was funded from a £225,000 appeal by the charity Sprint.

The new facilities allow visitors to watch the cheetahs from a wooden walkway and undercover viewing platform.

Cheetah conservation

The funds raised from the appeal will also enable Marwell to continue conservation work in Africa.

Its work includes tracking the movements of wild cheetahs and working with farmers and local communities in Zimbabwe and Kenya.

Research in Niger, where little is known about the cheetah population in the Sahara Desert, will also begin.

Wild cheetahs are threatened by loss of natural habitats, poaching and and illegal trapping.

With less than 10,000 remaining in the wild, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the species as vulnerable.

Dr Tim Woodfine, Marwell's director of conservation, said: "As key predators, cheetahs help to maintain the equilibrium in their ecosystems, so losing these animals has a massive impact on habitat biodiversity.

"Sprint has helped fund the vital work towards safeguarding these beautiful animals for future generations."

Forty four cubs have been born at Marwell since it opened in 1972, including eight cubs born in a single litter to one female, Joolz, in 1999.

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