Cheetahs at Oregon Zoo show off their speed chasing balls thrown from a catapult

A custom-built catapult is offering cheetahs at Oregon Zoo a chance to reach incredible speeds in their enclosure when chasing balls for play.

The 8ft (2.4m) wooden “cheetahpult” was created for the big cats by keepers when they realised that conventional ball-launchers fell too short for the fast and powerful animals to play with.

The device is a hand-cranked machine that launches plastic balls up to 150ft (46m) into the cheetah habitat, allowing Darlene and Mary Jane, the zoo’s two cheetahs, to run at impressive speeds to catch them.

Posting a video of the animals playing to Facebook, Oregon Zoo said: “Cheetahs Darlene and Mary Jane are expert ball-chasers.”

Cheetahs Chasing Balls

Cheetahs Darlene and Mary Jane are expert ball chasers.

Posted by Just For Fauna on Thursday, August 16, 2018

The video showing off the mammals’ impressive speed and agility has reached more than 88,000 views.

Keeper Beth Foster said: “I tried hitting balls for them with a tennis racket, but I could tell they wanted to run farther and faster. Now that I can fling the balls to the far end of their habitat, everyone’s having a lot more fun.

“In the wild, cheetahs run very quickly in short bursts … The cheetahpult is a great activity for them because it brings out those natural behaviours.”

Cheetahs are able to reach speeds of up to 70mph. By comparison, Usain Bolt reached average speeds of 23.35mph in his fastest 100m race.

- Press Association

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