Cheetah breeding expected to start this summer in Warren County

$1.5 million facility near racino, Ohio 63 interchange.

The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden has submitted plans for a $1.5 million development in a secluded wooded area on more than 600 acres near the Miami Valley Gaming racino in Turtlecreek Twp.

The zoo plans to move 10 cheetahs currently kept in Clermont County to the new facility, about three miles from the racino and Ohio 63 interchange at Interstate 75.

“Late summer is the goal,” communications director Michelle Curley said in an email to this news outlet.

The plans, however, do not include a run or public viewing area.

“The run will be on a different part of the property and has no connection to the breeding project. There would be an opportunity to have this be publicly accessible at some point in the future,” Curley said.

The cheetahs are bred with other zoo cheetahs from the Wilds, a wildlife park east of Columbus, as well as zoos in Texas, Florida, Nebraska and Washington, D.C.

On Feb. 16, the zoo is to present its site plan to the county’s Board of Zoning Appeals. The zoo is seeking a conditional use permit allowing for location of the facility near the intersection of Union and Nickel roads.

In January, zoo officials met at the site with about 30 residents to help them understand the project and assuage the fears of some. Samples of the fence to be used were in place and the area was staked off, said Mike Yetter, the county’s zoning supervisor.

Late last year, Commissioner Tom Grossmann questioned the zoo about the security of the facility, and neighbors expressed concerns about safety and property values.

Commissioners were not immediately available for comment today.

A farm house near the corner of Hamilton and Nickel roads is to be renovated as a caretaker’s residence.

Within woods toward the center of the property, the rectangular “containment area” is to measure about 750 feet by 240 feet. Two 10-foot fences buried three feet in the ground and electrified will enclose separate areas for as many as 16 male or female cheetahs.

“They want to start construction in March or April,” Yetter said. “They are ready to go.”

The zoo already breeds bees and plants and maintains a wetlands on other land nearby in Warren County.

Warren County officials have encouraged the zoo to provide a tourist attraction such as the Wilds, a wild animal park operated by the Columbus Zoo.

“The zoo works very well with our culture of tourism in the township and the county,” said Turtlecreek Twp. Trustee Jon Sams.

But zoo plans to draw tourists or residents to their sites in Warren County have been limited to farm, wetlands and perhaps the cheetah run, typically opened for special events.

“This project is still in the conceptual phase. We will have more direction on this project later this year,” Curley said.

Local officials said they support the cheetah breeding facility.

“I think the increased presence of the zoo will have a long-term beneficial effect on the township,” Sams said.

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