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By Ruth Ford
Washington Post Staff Writer
July 30, 1989


Jeff Blyth
Keith Coogan;
Lucy Deakins
General audience

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Kenya, Namibia, Tanzania -- within the heart of the exotic lies the most elusive of predators -- the cheetah. For thousands of years, this animal has been the companion of kings. Fitting, then, that the Smithsonian Resident Associate Program, which presented "The Last Emperor", should premiere "Cheetah," in its salute to the 100th anniversary of the National Zoo.

Presented tomorrow at Baird Auditorium at 7 p.m., this Walt Disney film traces the story of an American family seeking to reconnect its cheetah with her habitat. But this is not a tepid romance of familial affection for a household pet; the obstacles an animal born in captivity must face when introduced to the wild are daunting. "They are wonderful, wonderful animals," says Laurie Marker-Kraus, international cheetah expert and director of the New Opportunities in Animal Health Science Center at the National Zoo, "but they are threatened by their very gift -- speed. Although the cheetah is the fastest of predators, it does not have the physical strength to combat the more powerful cats." Today the increase in poaching and the disruption of its natural homelands has sent the cheetah on its longest mile: survival.

Directed by Jeff Blyth and starring Keith Coogan, "Cheetah" brings to focus the concerns of experts and laymen alike.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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