Meet our newest ambassador duo. Khayam jr. is our cheetah cub, and his partner Rhino is our friendly new pup. Khayam Jr. was born at the San Diego Safari Park on November 29th. His mom had shown that she was an unsuccessful mother, so keepers stepped in to raise them. Two of them, a male and female, remain at San Diego and are also being raised to be ambassadors at their park. KJ was given to Wildlife Safari to be our new ambassador.
We currently have two ambassador cheetahs, Khayam and Mchumba but they are starting to get close to the age of retirement so we decided to get a new recruit. Often times, when cheetahs are raised alone, keepers will decide to pair the cheetah with a companion dog. Guests often ask, why dogs? Depending on the breed, dogs often have the same life expectancy and are a similar size of their cheetah companion. Another reason is to help calm the cheetah. Cheetahs are a very high stress animal and can get very nervous, while dogs typically are the opposite. When entering new environments, or meeting new people, the cheetah will see their dog companion being relaxed and start to relax themselves. Lastly it gives them a sibling to play with and grow up with. The dog and cheetah will live together throughout their lives.
Wildlife Safari decided to switch things up when it came to picking the right dog for the job. Instead of going to a breeder, we went to our local shelter. Saving Grace helped us contact shelters all over the state, to help us find the perfect match. Rhino and his brother Gator were found and were a great match. Wildlife Safari kept both dogs in their care, until the cheetah cub was fully vaccinated. Keepers put both dogs in with Khayam jr to see which dog’s personality would mesh the best. Rhino was the winner but don’t worry, Gator was adopted by the cheetah/carnivore supervisor and is in great hands.
KJ and Rhino are already the best of friends and spend all their time together. They love to wrestle and chase each other around. Khayam Jr. (KJ) is very independent while Rhino is very social and loves to hang out and snuggle with his keepers. They balance each other out very well. They even started going on outreaches together. They are working at getting used to people other than their keepers and new environments. As ambassadors, they have an important job. They are here to teach the public about the importance of cheetahs and all about their wild counterparts. By having a cheetah come to a school event or a conference, the general public is able to experience something they normally wouldn’t. They get an up close encounter with an animal they will never forget. People want to help animals they love and care about, and the best way to do that is to meet one up close. KJ and Rhino will play a vital role in this mission. Once the weather warms up, the two will be on display at the cheetah spot in the always free village! Until then, you can meet the two on our daily encounter where you get a behind the scenes look at our vet clinic and see these two up close.