Later this month, Nat Geo WILD will debut a never-before-seen race between two of the National Football League’s fastest athletes and nature’s fastest land mammal in the premiere of “Man v. Cheetah,” filmed at Busch Gardens Tampa.
Premiering Friday, Nov. 29 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Nat Geo WILD, “Man v. Cheetah” will kick off the Fourth Annual Big Cat Week for Nat Geo WILD, the network’s most-watched week.
Running back Chris Johnson of the Tennessee Titans and Chicago Bears' wide receiver Devin Hester raced two of Busch Gardens’ fastest cheetahs, Jenna and Nave, earlier this year in the park’s Cheetah Run habitat.
For the challenge, Busch Gardens and Nat Geo WILD partnered to build a walled enclosure in Busch Gardens’ Cheetah habitat so the athletes and the cheetahs could run side-by-side safely.
According to NFL records, Chris Johnson is considered the fastest player in the NFL and Devin Hester holds the league’s all-time record for most kicks and punts returned for touchdowns.
During the race, park guests watched as the cheetahs dashed across their 220-foot sprint path for the race. The NFL athletes ran two different exercises on the other side of the safety wall. Johnson’s challenge was based on shear speed and included a back-and-forth stretch on the sprint path. Hester’s challenge highlighted his agility and required him and his cheetah competitor to run four lengths of the sprint, changing direction three times.
Additional programming to air during Nat Geo WILD’s Big Cat Week includes Betty White in “Betty White Goes Wild!,” National Geographic Explorers-in-Residence and renowned filmmakers Beverly & Dereck Joubert’s film, “Game of Lions,” and big cat wrangler Boone Smith hosts, “Cougar v. Wolf.” Additional premieres include, “Killer Queen,” “Super Cat,” “Swamp Lions,” “Cat Wars,” “The Last Lions,” “Built for Kill: Lions,” “Tiger Dynasty,” “Lion Army,” “Cheetah: Fatal Instinct” and “Lion Battle Zone.”For more information on Big Cat Week, visit www.natgeowild.com/bigcatweek.
About the cheetahs, Jenna and Nave
The cheetahs Jenna and Nave can be seen daily at Busch Gardens’ Cheetah Run exhibit near the Cheetah Hunt® rollercoaster. Both Jenna and Nave were born in 2010 at the Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre in De Wildt, South Africa. They arrived at Busch Gardens in January 2011 with five other young female cheetahs. Jenna loves attention and is often heard purring or chirping with excitement. Nave is described as an “easy going” cheetah that is very comfortable in new situations, which made her the perfect cheetah for this race. Both cheetahs have been clocked at reaching 62 mph while running on the 220-foot sprinting track in their habitat at Busch Gardens.
The cheetah habitat at Busch Gardens Tampa and other accredited zoological facilities inform millions of guests every year about the plight of the cheetah as endangered species in Africa and cheetah conservation. The SeaWorld® & Busch Gardens® Conservation Fund supports several cheetah projects, including the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia and Cheetah Outreach in South Africa.
About the SeaWorld and Busch Gardens Conservation Fund
A non-profit, 501(c)3 organization, the SeaWorld® & Busch Gardens® Conservation Fund supports wildlife research, habitat protection, animal rescue and conservation education in the U.S. and countries around the world. The Fund provides an outlet for park visitors to help protect wildlife and, because SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment™ provides all administrative and development costs as well as staffing and infrastructure, commits 100 percent of donations to on-the-ground wildlife conservation efforts.
About Nat Geo WILD
Experience the best, most intimate encounters with wildlife ever seen on television. Backed by its unparalleled reputation for quality and blue-chip programming, Nat Geo WILD is dedicated to providing a unique insight into the natural world, the environment and the amazing creatures that inhabit it. From the most remote environments, to the forbidding depths of our oceans, to the protected parks on our doorsteps, Nat Geo WILD will use spectacular cinematography and compelling storytelling to take viewers on unforgettable journeys into the wild world. Launched in 2006, Nat Geo WILD is part of National Geographic Channels International (NGCI) and is available in more than 90 countries and 100 million homes. Nat Geo WILD HD launched in the U.K. in March 2009, and is also available in Greece, Latin America, Poland, Spain and Russia. Further expansion is expected globally. For more information, please visit www.natgeotv.com.