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Busch's cheetahs cut loose on Trop's turf

If B.J. Upton running down a fly ball in centerfield is your vision of speed on the turf of Tropicana Field, think again.

The cheetahs of Busch Gardens Tampa were brought inside the stadium late last year for filming of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment's Saving a Species series, according to a news release by Busch Gardens. The show will be offered to educators on a special satellite feed.

With the stadium closed to outside visitors and the turf marked for the St. Petersburg Bowl football game, the cheetahs were encouraged to run the length of the field, chasing a lure system identical to the one in their Cheetah Run habitat at the Tampa attraction. The cats' efforts were captured by high-definition and high-speed cameras.

Their top speed? Try 46 mph screaming down the turf. Yep, that's almost cruising speed on some of downtown Tampa's interstates. In the wild, they can reach speeds of up to 60 mph.

"Even though we have this awesome habitat at Busch Gardens, a 100-yard football field will give us the opportunity to showcase what that speed looks like on a field that people can relate to," said Tim Smith, a Busch Gardens assistant curator who works with the cheetahs daily.

The 25-minute program is available to teachers and broadcasters free of charge. It will be broadcast without commercials from 10:45 to 11:30 a.m. (first 15 minutes are color bars) on Friday. Satellite coordinates, copyright information and Web-quality preview segments are available at In the coming months, the site will also be adding educational materials to complement the episode — including instructional videos, activity descriptions and teacher's guides — for elementary and middle school teachers.

Busch's cheetahs cut loose on Trop's turf 03/05/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 6, 2012 2:46pm]
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