Despite being known as a powerful predator in the animal world, cheetahs can become so anxious they end up shying away from their own kind.
The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, in America, recently welcomed a singleton cheetah cub, named Rozi, into their enclosure – and will soon be introducing her to her very own support dog.
In an attempt to socialise their new cub, she will live alongside puppy Daisy, who has been adopted from Animal Rescue Fund Inc, once she reaches a certain age.
Cat Ambassador Program (CAP) lead trainer Linda Castañeda said: “Canine companionship provides play and socialisation opportunities that humans cannot give the cub.”
As cheetah mums do not receive enough stimulation from a single cub to produce an adequate milk supply, Rozi couldn’t be cared for by her mum at Wildlife Safari in Oregon.
The Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Cheetah Species Survival Plan (SSP) identified Cincinnati Zoo as the best place for the cub to be raised.
“We have raised all of the eight cheetahs that are currently in the Cat Ambassador Program,” said Linda.
“The first few months are important for bonding and building trust, so we will be with her night and day.
“When she’s ready, she will join the other ambassadors and eventually participate in the Zoo’s Cheetah Encounter.”
The Cincinnati Zoo and Wildlife Safari are two of only ten facilities that participate in the AZA-accredited cheetah Breeding Center Coalition (BCC).
The BCC’s goal is to create a sustainable cheetah population that will prevent extinction of the world’s fastest land animal.
Cheetahs are endangered, and their population worldwide has shrunk from about 100,000 in 1,900 to an estimated 9,000 to 12,000 cheetahs today.
However, their shyness is not the only factor linked to their drop in numbers as their loss of habitat, lack of prey, and vulnerability to hunters has increased their risk of becoming extinct.
Little Rozi isn’t the only cheetah to have an emotional support dog as the Metro Richmond Zoo, in Virginia, America, introduced their cheetah, Kumbali, to yellow labrador retriever, Kago, to help ease the big cat’s anxiety.
A spokeswoman said: “Kumbali and Kago don’t even seem to recognise their differences in species, size, or colour. There is only acceptance.
“This unique companionship has captured the hearts of millions of people.”
The pair were introduced to each other in July 2015 when they were just two-months-old – and have been inseparable ever since.
Living harmoniously in the same enclosure, Kumbali and Kago spend their days playing and eating together, before cuddling up with one another when they get tired.