A 6-week-old cheetah cub at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is spending lots of time with his new dog companion. The young cheetah, Ruuxa, was chosen to be raised as an animal ambassador at the Safari Park after he was rejected by his mother and had to be hand raised by keepers.
Cheetahs are usually born in litters of three to five cubs; when a singleton is born, the mother often rejects the cub since the chance of the cub surviving in the wild would be minimal. The cheetah cub and puppy, a 7-week-old Rhodesian ridgeback puppy named Raina, are being introduced by animal care staff at the Safari Park. The puppy will be raised with the cheetah and serve as his lifelong companion.
“Because the cheetah was by himself and did not have any siblings we wanted him to have a companion immediately,” animal training manager Susie Ekard said. “They definitely like to play, and when they take naps together, they often will snuggle up together for that warmth and closeness.”
Safari Park cheetahs selected for training as ambassadors are paired early in life with a domestic dog. As the two companions grow up together, the dog’s body language will communicate to the cheetah that there’s nothing to fear in new or public surroundings, which relaxes and calms the cheetah. The Safari Park currently has four cheetah ambassadors all of which are trained to participate in the Park’s Cheetah Run experience.
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