Abandoned baby cheetah, Lightning Bolt, has a new mother – or rather a new Dad – in the form of Jamaica’s double world sprint champion, Usain Bolt.
It seems Bolt Human was scared of big cats until he fed his three-month old adopted “son” bottled milk, cradling his fuzzy cheetah head in his hand. The cub’s name conjures up powerful images of lightning fizzing across storm-clouded Kenyan savannah, a wonderland of African wildlife – of wildebeest, lion, giraffe, rhino and the extremely rare wild dog.
Bolt was touring Kenya’s Nairobi National Park as a sports ambassador for The Zeitz Foundation in Germany, which is concerned that the country’s wildlife, a big tourism earner, is threatened by trophy hunting, human encroachment and climate change. So Bolt paid $13,700 to formally adopt the cub, and will pay another $3,000 a year to help raise him at an animal orphanage in Nairobi. This should give Bolt great personal satisfaction, and soon some company such as Nike will put Lightning Bolt into its “swoosh” design.
In a region that produces the world’s greatest distance runners, it would be nice to see much more of this kind of publicity. Wildlife’s great marathoners, long-distance stars, mid-distance wizards and sprint champs – including birds, snakes and lizards — could team up with Beijing Olympics marathon king Samuel Wanjiru, 10,000 metre record holder Richard Chelimo, or one of the famous Kipketer clan. Kenya could create a modern form of totemism, where societies practice mystical kinship with their natural surroundings, keeping balance and preserving wonder, instead of rapine commercialisation of land.
Cheetahs are able to reach speeds of up to 112km/h, nearly three times Bolt’s top speed of some 44km/h, so he’ll have a tough time chasing around after Lightning Bolt when the cub is feeling antsy.
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