A cheetah cub, Ruuxa, and his female puppy companion, Raina, wrestled, ran and played as they participated in training sessions at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. As part of their training, the young animal ambassadors, both now over three months old, ventured out of their current home at the Safari Park's animal care center to experience new surroundings and to begin acclimating to their future home behind the scenes at the Park's Benbough Amphitheater.
"As an ambassador animal, Ruuxa will be experiencing lots of unpredictable environments, so it is vitally important for him to feel confident in his surroundings," stated Larissa Comb, senior animal trainer, San Diego Zoo Safari Park. "We are taking Ruuxa and Raina outside their comfort zone of the animal care center, doing short training sessions with them several times a day, allowing them to have experiences in a controlled environment. Both animals are doing great, progressing very fast, and Ruuxa's confidence is incredible for his age."
The animal pair was placed together at four and five weeks of age to be raised as ambassador animals, after the cheetah cub was rejected by his mother and had to be hand raised by keepers. Safari Park ambassador cheetahs are paired with a domestic dog for companionship, and the dog's body language helps communicate to the cheetah that there is nothing to fear in new or public surroundings, which relaxes and calms the cheetah.