Friend, not food: Dallas Zoo introduces cheetah cubs to roommate Labrador

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by JANET ST. JAMES

WFAA

Posted on September 13, 2013 at 5:44 PM

Updated Friday, Sep 13 at 6:36 PM

DALLAS –– How do you calm down two rambunctious baby cheetahs? Get them a puppy.

His name is Amani –– no, it doesn't mean dinner. 

"Amani means 'peace' in Swahili," says Chris Johnson, Dallas Zoo manager for animal adventures. "And since the whole idea is to help keep them a little bit more calm and peaceful, that's why we decided to name him Amani."

The Dallas Zoo is hoping man's best friend will be a calming influence on the naturally nervous cheetahs, Winspear and Kamau. They will soon become an important part of the zoo's traveling outreach program.

The male cubs were born July 8 at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Va.  A team of Dallas Zoo experts spent nearly two weeks in Virginia before flying back to Dallas with the cubs.  

For five to six hours a day, animal care specialists are now slowly introducing the three to each other.  Amani is a 10-week old labrador, twice as big as the cats right now, so there's no danger to him. Eventually, they'll live together 24-7. 

For cheetahs, this is called a "coalition."

"What they'll do is they'll actually form a coalition with the dog and it'll be like their best friend," says Johnson, "They'll live together and they won't really ralize that it's anything different than what they are." 

Insuring these predatory cats are calm enough to be taken into public is important to conservation.

"They serve as amazing representatives," said animal care specialist Shannon College. "So we can get the word out to people who can help protect all the wild animals in Africa."

And while fido might be food, not friend, in the wild, these spotted babies being raised in captivity see Amani as peace.

 

Email jstjames@wfaa.com

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