Mesmerizing, isn't it? National Geographic, which shot this video for its November issue and offered to share it with ABC News, points out that cheetahs are the world's fastest runners, though they have not been able to outrun the farmers and hunters who have moved in on their native habitats in Africa and Asia. Fewer than 10,000 cheetahs are believed to survive in the wild.
The animals that appear in "Cheetahs on the Edge" live in the relative safety of the Cincinnati Zoo. To make what cinematographer Greg Wilson calls the director's cut, he and a Hollywood crew set up a camera on a 400-foot-long track - and tried to keep up with the cheetahs as they raced along at more than 60 miles per hour, chasing a piece of meat. The camera shot 1,200 frames of video per second, fast enough that two seconds of a cheetah running all-out take two minutes to play.
The result you see, in glorious detail, in high definition.
"I've watched cheetahs run for 30 years," said Cathryn Hilker of the Cincinnati Zoo. "But I saw things in that super slow-motion video that I've never seen before."
Cheetahs occupy an unusual place in the wilderness, and in the human imagination, writes Roff Smith in the magazine. They are efficient predators (be glad you're not a gazelle), but they are the only big cats that cannot roar. They are often crowded out by lions, which are bigger and more numerous. They are, as Smith writes, "the most vulnerable of the world's big cats, surprisingly rare and growing steadily rarer."
So if you have a few minutes to spare, they're worth watching. National Geographic has posted more at CauseAnUproar.org.