This segment is part of the IEEE Spectrum series “Fastest on Earth.”
Fastest Land Animal: Cheetah
Ari Daniel Shapiro: And now, for the fastest critter on the land.
Susan Hassler: Ari Daniel Shapiro, with another of the fastest living things.
Ari Daniel Shapiro: Step into Patricia Tricorache’s home in the Florida Keys, and it’s clear where her loyalties lie. Framed pictures of cheetahs hang on the wall. Cheetah spots freckle the pillows and curtains. Even her phone has a ringtone of a cheetah purring.
PatriciaTricorache: They’re one of the most amazing animals in the whole world. They’re like poetry when you see one.
Ari Daniel Shapiro: Tricorache works for the Cheetah Conservation Fund, and she’s seen plenty of the animals on her visits to Namibia, where the nonprofit’s based.
PatriciaTricorache: There’s nothing that beats watching a cheetah run.
Ari Daniel Shapiro: What does that look like?
Patricia Tricorache: It’s like a flash. They’re incredibly focused. And their ears fall back, and they’re all business.
Ari Daniel Shapiro: Cheetahs can reach speeds of 70 miles an hour, and they run to catch prey. But these days, that run has become a race.
Patricia Tricorache: A race against extinction.
Ari Daniel Shapiro: In the early 1900s, there were 100 000 cheetahs in the world. Only 10 000 remain today, and they’ve got a small gene pool. Their habitat’s shrinking. Wild cheetahs could disappear within 20 years.
Patricia Tricorache: To think that your kids will never see a cheetah run in the wild. And they’re gonna ask us, “Why didn’t you do anything?” And I don’t want to have to answer that question.
AriDaniel Shapiro: Protecting a top predator means protecting an entire ecosystem, and that’s Tricorache’s big goal—to create a wild home for her cats, and to do it before extinction wins the race. I’m Ari Daniel Shapiro.