Here are two interviews, one Cathryn Hilker and Thane Maynard:
Cathryn Hilker lives in
1: What are some of the signals you use with the cheetahs?
2: What are some of the tools you use with the cheetahs?
3: What was the name of the very first cheetah you raised and what
year was it?
4: How old were you when you raised your first cheetah?
5: When did you want to raise cheetahs?
6: Was the cheetah your favorite animal when you were a kid?
7: Were you offered this job or did you create it?
8: Do you think there could be a better job out there?
9: What are the names of the cheetahs you have raised over the years?
10: How do you know when a cheetah is hurt, sad, or hungry?
11: What is the average weight of a cheetah?
12: How much does an average cheetah weigh and sleep per day?
13: Do the cheetahs ever get chubby from too many treats?
14: Is there a limit to the treats?
15: What is the food that you give them?
16: What are the treats?
17: How do you tell the cheetah it was good or bad?
18: Can you teach the cheetahs tricks and if so, what kind of tricks?
19: Do you think there could possibly be a better job out in the
20: Do you think you have the best job in the world?
Here are the answers to our questions, from Cathryn:
1. We use both verbal signals and hand signals with the cats.
"Seat", means jump onto a table. "Crate" - get into your carrying
cage. We use "down", "sit", "come". "Leave it”, means do not
put your mouth on something. Hand signals - a hand rose up palm out means "stay". A hand
held down with fingers toward the cat means, “come forward".
2. We use a "bait bag" to carry their treats. A long whip with a ball on
the end to play with them.
3. I raised my first cheetah, Angel, in l980.
4. I was 49 years old.
5. When our zoo wanted to raise money for a new cat house, I suggested we get a cheetah for Public Relations benefit. The slogan for the fund raising was "Support Your Local Cat House".
6. When my parents took me to the zoo as a little person, I always ended up standing in front of the cheetah area.
7. The job was my idea, but I had to have the zoo believe in it. With the help of your (Avery’s) wonderful Grandfather, Jack Maier, who funded the construction of the cheetah area, I was allowed to continue my dream.
8. My career has been the realization of the best of possible worlds. I have been allowed to do something that I love, work with animals I admire and actually be able to make a positive difference for wildlife.
9. These are the cheetahs I have raised:
10. You can tell how a cheetah feels by his body stance. An injured cheetah would limp or just lie around too much and their "third eyelid", that clear membrane that flashes across the eye, stays visible. A hungry
cheetah paces his cage anxiously. "Sad", is really not a word to describe a wild creature. They become, what is called "depressed" and that means they do not feel well.
11. Females - 80 pounds. Males - 100 pounds
12. A mature cheetah, in a zoo, eats about 4 pounds of food daily. They sleep most of the night and take naps during the day. Sleeping is a good part of a cat’s life
13 Cheetahs seldom get "fat". We are careful not to give too many treats".
14. Yes, too many treats can make them vomit.
15. We feed "Dallas Crown" food. A mixture of ground horse
meat, minerals and vitamins.
16. The treats are chunks of horse meat
17. They understand the word "good" is praise and bad behavior is acknowledged by "NO!” spoken sternly but NEVER shouted.
18. We don't do tricks, such as push a tricycle with their nose or
something, but they are taught "natural behaviors", such as run on command or sit or jump.
l9. I love my job. But there are many great jobs. One just needs to find the thing that appeals to the heart. I was fortunate to find mine and have people who believed in me.
20. I have the best job for my world and for my life. To wake up in the morning and love what you do is likely one of the great blessing one can have.
I hope you think Cathryn is as much as a very wonderful person as we do!
Thane Maynard is a very interesting person.
He lives in
1) How do you think people can communicate better with their
I THINK THE
WITH THEM. YOU CAN PLAY WITH THEM OR SIMPLY SIT WITH THEM WHILE
YOU'RE READING A BOOK. STARTING AT FEEDING TIME IS
THE AFFECTION OF MOST PETS.
2) Do you travel to different places around the globe to study animals
if so, what kinds of animals?
AFRICAN CHEETAH AND THE SUMATRAN RHINOCEROS. EACH YEAR I TRAVEL TO
PART OF OUR ONGOING PROGRAM, THE CHEETAH CONSERVATION FUND. IN
SOMETIMES GET TO GO PLACES LIKE
3) When were you interested in doing this job?
I GREW UP IN
AIR CONDITIONING, SO I SPENT MY ENTIRE YOUTH OUTSIDE CHASING ANIMALS. I
HAVE BEEN VERY LUCKY TO WORK WITH THEM EVER SINCE I WAS A BOY.
4) What do you do when you are not doing your job?
MY FAVORITE PASTIMES ARE READING, RACQUETBALL, JOGGING AND BIRD
5) When were REALLY interested in animals?
WHEN I WAS A BOY OF ABOUT 8 I WAS ALLOWED TO TAKE AN OLD FISHING
BOAT ACROSS BIG LAKE HOWELL IN SEMINOLE COUNTY, FLORIDA, AND SPENT THE
WEEKEND CAMPING AND CATCHING ANIMALS WITH MY BEST FRIEND. NO PARENTS IN
THEIR RIGHT MINDS LET KIDS DO THAT SORT OF THING ALL BY THEMSELVES FOR
DAYS ANYMORE, BUT IT WAS THE BEGINNING OF MY ADVENTURES WITH ANIMALS.
6) What is the best communicating animal you can think of?
I BELIEVE ALL VERTEBRATE ANIMALS CAN SHOW DIFFERENT EMOTIONS. YOU
HAVE PROBABLY SEEN THIS IF YOU HAVE A DOG. LIKE US, ANIMALS HAVE
MOODS. INTERESTINGLY, THE VERY BEST ANIMALS AT COMMUNICATING WITH EACH
OTHER ARE PROBABLY SOCIAL INSECTS LIKE BEES, ANTS, AND TERMITES. IT IS
UNBELIEVABLE HOW ORGANIZED THEY ARE. AS FOR MAMMALS, THE BEST
ARE THE SOCIAL ANIMALS, ALL OF WHICH HAVE VERY BIG BRAINS: ELEPHANTS,
WHALES & DOLPHINS, AND GREAT APES, WHICH INCLUDE HUMANS. THEIR BIG
BRAINS HELP WITH THEIR COMPLEX LANGUAGE AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION.
7) What do you like best about your job??
WHEN I WAS A BOY I REALLY WANTED TO WRITE BOOKS AND WORK WITH
ANIMALS. SOMEHOW, IT ALL WORKED OUT, AND THOSE ARE IMPORTANT PARTS OF
WHAT I DO.
8) How do YOU think animals try to communicate with humans?
ANIMALS REALLY DO HAVE A SORT OF '6TH SENSE' THAT PEOPLE DON'T
UNDERSTAND. WE HAVE GREAT SIGHT AND GOOD HEARING, BUT MANY ANIMALS CAN
VIBRATIONS WE CANNOT, THEY CAN SMELL SCENTS FROM OTHER ANIMALS WE CANNOT
DETECT, AND LOTS OF ANIMALS CAN HEAR SOUNDS AND SEE LIGHT BEYOND THE
OF OUR SENSES. THIS LEAD, FOR EXAMPLE, TO MANY OF THE ANIMALS NEAR THE
COAST OF THE INDIAN OCEAN TO MOVE UP HILL IN TIME TO AVOID THE RECENT
TSUNAMI. I THINK THERE ARE INCREDIBLE LESSONS TO BE LEARNED FROM
WHETHER IT'S A PET, OR A WILD CREATURE.