One Woman Fights to Save Her Beloved Cheetahs

As it turns out, they usually don't have to: A fascinating cheetah paradox is that while they are ferocious hunters, they are downright timid compared to other big cats.

In fact, for centuries, they've proven easy to domesticate.

"The cheetah has been revered by kings, emperors and princes for thousands of years," Marker said. "Maharajahs had stables of them and would take them hunting."

Their relatively docile personalities, which may endear them to humans, can hinder their survival in the wild.

Some Cheetahs Too Attached to Handlers to Survive in Wild

Cheetahs tend to rely on their extraordinary speed rather than overt aggression. As a result, they often lose their prey to more belligerent predators, like lions and hyenas.

Some of the cheetahs at this reserve -- like Quasar, Phoenix and Soraya -- are too attached to their human handlers to be released back into the wild.

"When you bottle raise them, they become pretty social," Marker said.

Others, however, have been successfully released.

Still, these modest successes may not be enough for this magnificent, but fragile, species. The fate of these beautiful cats is also imperiled by loss of habitat due to human encroachments, and a lack of genetic diversity, which leaves them highly susceptible to disease.

Marker said she is keenly aware of this fact. One of her most beloved cats is Chewbakka, whom Marker adopted 14 years ago. He's been an ambassador for his species and a companion for Marker, but he's reaching the end of the line.

During "Nightline's" visit, she tried to comfort the aging cat.

"Oh, Chewbakka, it's not that easy anymore," she said.

It was a reminder of how much she loves these animals, as well as the difficult road that lies ahead.

"Everything about them is amazing," she said. "They are truly beautiful. They are going away."

For more information on the Cheetah Conservation Fund, CLICK HERE.

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