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Cheetah Pets

One of the dozen paintings up for grabs

On excursions to a wildlife refuge in his native South Africa, David Hochstadter goes straight for the cheetahs. Since he was a boy, he's been fascinated with the slinky, polka-dotted cats, along with conservationists' efforts to protect them. As an artist, he's using his creative talent to pitch in.

Hochstadter, who teaches at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale and at Florida Atlantic University, has painted renderings of seven cheetahs from the Cango Wildlife Ranch in South Africa.

Last year, seven cheetahs at the ranch were poisoned in an apparent criminal act. Four of those cheetahs, including a male named Goggles (whom Hochstadter and his mom subsequently petted), recovered from the tainted meat. Goggles and the six other poisoned cheetahs are featured in Hochstadter's earthy, sand-textured oil paintings.

Through April, the dozen cheetah paintings are on display and for sale at the West Regional Library in Plantation. Hochstadter says he will donate a portion of the proceeds to the Cheetah Conservation Foundation, a nonprofit organization in South Africa that is raising money to beef up security at the Cango Wildlife Ranch.

Aside from selling the work, Hochstadter is eager for the display and his lecture on April 23 to add to the American public's appreciation for cheetahs and the efforts to protect them from extinction.

"I think imagery through an artist's vision can really change people's thinking," Hochstadter says.

Like the cheetah series, Hochstadter often paints scenes from South Africa, reflecting his passion for wildlife conservation. "Painting really is a way of bringing attention to people about what exists," he says. "It's a vehicle to me. I do these paintings as personal documents of the environment that I was lucky enough to grow up in in southern Africa."

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