A South African Cheetah. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Sarah the Cheetah, World's Fastest Land Mammal, Dies in Ohio Zoo


JANUARY 22, 2016

Cleveland. An Ohio zoo said on Thursday that Sarah, a cheetah designated the world's fastest land mammal by National Geographic magazine in 2012, has died at the age of 15.

The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden said in a statement that it had euthanized Sarah on Wednesday due to her "diminishing quality of life." The average life span of a cheetah, the fastest land mammal, is 8 to 12 years, the zoo said.

Sarah was dubbed the fastest cheetah when she ran 100 meters in 5.95 seconds, or 98.2 kph, during the filming of a National Geographic special, beating her previous world record of 6.13 seconds in 2009.

Cameras captured the record-breaking run on Sarah's first attempt as she chased a fluffy dog toy lure on a specially designed course certified by the Road Running Technical Council of USA Track & Field, the national governing body for running and walking organized sports.

That record was more than 3 seconds faster than human runner Usain Bolt of Jamaica, who holds the Olympic record for the same distance.

Sarah was brought to Ohio at the age of 6 weeks and raised by Cathryn Hilker, founder of the Zoo's Cat Ambassador Program. She was one of the first cheetah cubs to be raised with a puppy companion, named Alexa, a now-common practice intended to serve as a calming influence.

"She lived a full life and was a phenomenal ambassador for her species," said Linda Castaneda, lead trainer for the Cincinnati Zoo's Cat Ambassador Program. Castaneda added that Sarah had a "very expressive face" that communicated what she wanted.

The population of cheetahs has shrunk to an estimated 9,000-12,000 worldwide compared with about 100,000 in 1900, zoo officials said.