Chehaw mourns loss of cheetah, Roswell

Published 1:48 pm Wednesday, July 5, 2017

ALBANY — Chehaw is mourning the loss of cheetah, Roswell, who died Wednesday at the advanced age of 12. Cheetahs in captivity have an average lifespan of 10 years. Early Wednesday morning, after Zoo and vet staff concluded that there was no realistic chance of significant recovery from age related ailments, the difficult decision was made to humanely euthanize Roswell to prevent further suffering.

Roswell was one of three cheetah sisters who arrived at Chehaw in 2006 from the White Oak Conservation Center where they were hand-raised. Roswell’s health had been declining slowly for over a year now, with symptoms indicating problems with her kidneys. She had been eating well and behaving normally until Monday morning before making a sharp decline. Roswell was popular with guests and staff, and like her two sisters, formed an especially close bond with Samantha Sassone, Assistant Curator and the cheetah’s primary zookeeper.  “I went to check her first thing Wednesday morning, and even though she was purring as she walked to me, I could see she was in pain and feel that she was dehydrated,” said Sassone. “We all knew it was time. We sedated her, and the vet examined her one last time. She died peacefully, surrounded by people who respected her and cared for her.”

Sassone described Roswell as sensitive, affectionate, and a true predator. “She was a real huntress, always chasing squirrels. Once, I saw her touch the tail feathers of an unsuspecting egret who made his way into the cheetah enclosure. He barely got away,” remembers Sassone. “To her sisters, she was always affectionate and playful. She would hide behind things in the exhibit and pounce on them while they were grooming.”

Another cheetah, Ellie, will be monitored closely for any signs of stress after the loss of her last remaining sister. “She has never lived alone before, so we will spend even more time interacting with her and providing additional enrichment,” said Sassone. “Ellie appears to be in good health right now, but she is a geriatric animal. We don’t know how strongly the loss of Roswell will affect her and don’t want stress to trigger any problems.”

Roswell and Chehaw’s other ambassador cheetahs have captivated, and more importantly educated thousands of guests about the plight of cheetahs in the wild. Due to human conflict, poaching, and habitat and prey-base loss, there are only an estimated 7,500 to 10,000 cheetahs left in the wild. The International Union for Conservation of Nature considers cheetahs vulnerable to extinction

Chehaw is accredited by the prestigious Association of Zoos and Aquariums, assuring the highest standards of animal care and husbandry. Chehaw is a non-profit organization located at 105 Chehaw Park Rd. and is open every day of the year. Chehaw’s vision encompasses the principles on which Chehaw was founded; conservation, education and preservation. For more information call 229.430.5275. Chehaw is located in Albany, Georgia.