Belfast Zoo is delighted to welcome back the world’s fastest land animal. A female cheetah called Mia, arrived from Fota Wildlife Park in Cork to Belfast zoo’s new specially designed ‘Cheetah lookout’ habitat.

Mia is a Northern Cheetah subspecies, which is considered endangered by the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN). There are currently fewer than 800 left in the wild with populations of cheetah coming under greater threat of extinction each year. Cheetah populations are in decline due to human-wildlife conflict, hunting, habitat loss and retaliatory killings by competing predators.

Mia will be two years old in August and should already be mature enough to have cubs. Belfast Zoo plans for a new cheetah male to arrive sometime over the summer with the hopes of breeding the pair.

Alyn Cairns, Zoo Manager, says ‘Belfast Zoo is continuing our commitment to conservation and participation in the European Breeding Programme. The arrival of Mia is a great way to educate the public about the collaborative work that zoos do as part of EAZA breeding programmes, and we are delighted to add Mia to our animal collection.’

Cheetahs are highly adaptable animals, and the cats have settled in many environments such as deserts, forests, grasslands, woodlands, and mountains. Iconic for their black spotted coats and teardrop marks, their sleek, athletic build allows them to race across grasslands at speeds touching 70 miles (112km) an hour.

Cairns continued ‘Zoo staff are excited to have cheetah in the zoo again. We have created a new habitat that will encourage cheetah natural behaviour. In the wild, cheetahs are often seen perching on rocks or low branches looking out for prey and predators. From the platforms in the new habitat, Mia has a great view, not just of her enclosure, but of many other parts of the zoo as well. There are also flat plateau areas where she can sprint and secluded landscaped areas to allow for privacy.’

If visitors would like to ‘spot’ Mia, Belfast Zoo is open every day, 10am – 6pm with last admission at 4.30pm. Mia arrived just in time for Love Your Zoo week, which Belfast Zoo will be celebrating with free activities and more from Sunday 28 May until Saturday 3 June.