At Whipsnade Zoo in the UK, using high-speed cameras at 1,000 frames per second and a pressure-sensitive track, scientists are studying North African cheetahs which can reach speeds of 104 kmh within just a few paces. By finding out what makes these cheetahs so fast, they are hoping to develop more sophisticated ways of dealing with human disabilities.
Penny Hudson, a project researcher at the Royal Veterinary College says that they are measuring things like how long thecheetahs’ feet remain on the ground when they are running, how long their strides are, the curvature of spine as they’re running, in order to discover why cheetahs run so much faster than other animals.” Researchers use the data collected to calculate the strength and flexibility needed to make the cheetahs’ muscles move at high speed. The results are intended to help manufacture better prostheses for disabled people. Professor Alan Wilson of the Royal Veterinary Collage, University of London says that in terms of prosthestic limbs, new technologies are increasingly involved in making them work in a more efficient, more mechanically effective manner, which is why they are looking at how animals like cheetahs use their limbs. Animals’ limbs are mechanically very much simpler than humans’ limbs. They can’t do all the things that humans can, like dance and run and move. They are very much more specialised for a single function, so the researchers are looking at how cheetahs’ legs are simplified for a particular function. They can then start to define the minimum requirements for a prosthetic limb to perform that sort of walking movement.” Researchers believe that cheetahs are capable of achieving even faster speeds in the wild and are therefore planning to extend their observations and perhaps record a more accurate maximum speed. For more information about Whipsnade Zoo, see their website: