Zookeeper Holli Duffy visits with Robin

Zookeeper Holli Duffy visits with Robin

Discovery Wildlife Park offers rare glimpse of cheetahs

The world’s fastest animal is in Central Alberta.

The world’s fastest animal is in Central Alberta.

Visitors to Innisfail’s Discovery Wildlife Park this year will be able to get a look at Robin and Annie, two cheetahs that serve as the first representatives of their species in Alberta in many years.

Wild Rose Country denizens may remember longtime Edmonton-area zoologist Al Oeming visiting their schools or local malls with his pet cheetah Tawana in the 1970s, but since then the fast cats have not had a significant presence in the province.

And their stay in Alberta this time may not last long. The felines’ owners are attempting to move from Ontario to B.C., but the latter province’s strict regulations around non-native species have left the cheetahs, and their owners, waiting in limbo.

The owners reached out to Discovery Wildlife Park last winter, and owner Doug Bos agreed to house the animals.

Their arrival presents an exciting opportunity for the viewing public to the zoo, which opens today.

“It’s the first time people get to see cheetahs in Alberta for a long, long time,” said Bos.

The acquisition of the cats represents something of a dream come true for the park owner, as Bos said he always wanted to have cheetahs. But after having dealt with the animals for the last few months, seeing how specific a diet they require and how their being genetically compromised gives them poor eyesight and gastrointestinal problems, his tune has changed a bit.

“They’re probably one of the toughest cats to look after and maintain and they have a very short life expectancy. So for the cost of them, they’re definitely not worth the investment and the headache that goes with them at all,” said Bos.

The cats are relatively social and friendly, but are not sufficiently trained to allow for outside-the-fence interaction with the public. They are staying in a large enclosure that would allow them to get up to speeds around 100 km/h, but Bos said without prey to chase, cats tend to be pretty lazy and content to lay around.

The 90-acre property boasts 40 species and will be open from today until Oct. 13 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily.