Cheetahs in captivity still want to run and chase things, so the caretakers at Oregon Zoo made a custom-built a catapult that launches balls from one end of the cheetah habitat to the other. The cheetahs get a treat when they fetch a ball.
Via the zoo:
A custom-made contraption has catapulted the Oregon Zoo's cheetahs toward a new level of fitness. Dubbed the "cheetahpult," it's an 8-foot wooden device that flings a ball far enough for a cheetah — the fastest land animal on earth — to chase. After more conventional ball launchers fell short, the cheetahpult was designed and built by staff members with the zoo's speediest residents in mind.
"I tried hitting balls for them with a tennis racket, but I could tell they wanted to run farther and faster," said Beth Foster, a keeper at the Oregon Zoo and one of the designers of the cheetahpult. "Now that I can fling the balls to the far end of their habitat, everyone's having a lot more fun."
The cheetahpult is a hand-cranked machine that launches lightweight plastic balls up to 150 feet into the cheetah habitat in the zoo's Predators of the Serengeti area. Foster sets it up outside of the habitat and sends the balls inside, where Darlene and Mary Jane, the zoo's two cheetahs, chase and retrieve them. When they're ready for another round, they drop the balls in a bucket.