Zoo offers chance for photos with cheetah

August 31, 2010

By Warren Kagarise

Cougar Mountain Zoo has raised all but about $100,000 needed for the Issaquah institution to open a cheetah exhibit, possibly as early as next year.

The zoo has planned a posh Cheetah Masquerade Gala for Sept. 18 to help meet the fundraising goal. Zoo General Curator Robyn Barfoot announced a special treat for attendees at the gala: the chance to have their photo taken next to a cheetah.

Only a lucky handful can get up close to the cheetah — a 4-year-old female named Taini from Wildlife Safari in Winston, Ore. — by bidding for three photo opportunities up for grabs in a silent auction.

Wildlife Safari, a drive-through preserve about 90 minutes south of Eugene, is the only facility in the Pacific Northwest to exhibit cheetahs.

Cougar Mountain Zoo aims to become the first facility in Washington to open a cheetah exhibit.

Despite the name, the fundraiser is masquerade-optional — no masks are required.

“The only thing we require is for you to have a good time,” Barfoot said.

The zoo announced plans last summer to add a cheetah to its big cat collection known for Bengal tigers and a cougar. Barfoot said she hopes to open the cheetah exhibit by late 2011 or early 2012, but the zoo must construct a habitat and pick up a cheetah cub before the facility can debut.

The cheetah fundraiser follows a successful campaign to raise money for a Bengal tiger exhibit. The zoo held a gala fundraiser in 2008 to add Bengal tigers to the facility, plus another event last year to raise money for a larger tiger habitat.

The tiger collection includes 3-year-old Bengal tigers Taj and Almos. Bengal tiger cubs Bagheera and Vitez debuted at the zoo last summer.

If you go

Cheetah Masquerade Gala

5 p.m. Sept. 18

Cougar Mountain Zoo

19525 S.E. 54th St.

$165 per person

Call 392-6278, e-mail zoo General Curator Robyn Barfoot at rbarfootCMZ@aol.com or go to www.cougarmountainzoo.org to purchase tickets.

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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