The Torch
5:34 am
Tue August 7, 2012

National Zoo Names Cheetah Cubs After U.S. Sprinters

Two cheetah cubs whose cuteness recently landed them on Facebook and Tumblr pages around the Internet have been named after U.S. Olympians competing in London.

Presumably, it was the cheetahs' fabled speed, not cuteness, that inspired officials at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., to name them Carmelita and Justin, after sprinters Carmelita Jeter and Justin Gatlin.

The three-month-old felines' namesakes won silver (Jeter) and bronze (Gatlin) medals in the 100-meter sprint at the Summer Games.

As the AP reports: "Cheetahs are the fastest animals on land. Scientists say every surviving cub is critical to saving the species, which is threatened with extinction in the wild. Carmelita and Justin are genetically valuable because their mother and father were first-time parents. They were born in April at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Virginia."

Researchers were not asked about the likelihood, considered infinitesimal by even casual observers, that the two animals would ever answer to their names — much less showcase their world-class speed in responding to being called. After all, at the end of the day, they're still cats.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.