The keepers at the Oregon Zoo use a custom made catapult known as the “Cheetahpult” to launch balls far into the enclosure of the resident cheetah ambassadors as a means of providing exercise and enrichment. These beautiful big cats gracefully chase after the launched dark red ball, swoop it up, return it into a bucket near the fence and then receive a yummy treat. This process will go on for as long as the cats keep returning the balls to the bucket.
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.