Two cheetah cubs will have an extra special playmate as they grow up at a north Texas zoo.
Eight-week-old Winspear and Kamau, who arrived at the Dallas Zoo just days ago, will grow up alongside a black lab puppy. Amani, a Swahili word meaning "peace" given as a nod to the cub's East Africa heritage, is also just 8 weeks old.
On their website, the zoo explains that dogs are naturally comfortable being around groups of people, and can help the cheetahs feel secure growing up in the limelight. The Dallas Zoo gets more than 900,000 visitors a year.
"Zoological experts have found that because dogs are naturally comfortable in public settings, Amani will provide a calming influence for the cubs, as well as another playmate as they grow to adulthood," the Dallas Zoo says on their website.
The Dallas Zoo isn't the first to pair puppies and cheetahs; other zoos such as the San Diego Zoo have successfully used dogs as cheetah companions. They explain on their website how wildlife officials go about introducing two animals that on first glance would seem to be as opposite as can be.
How were we going to introduce a 1-year-old exotic male cheetah to a 2-year-old female domestic dog? Won’t he look at her as if she’s his next meal? We are trained professionals, so don’t try this at home! In the beginning, we kept these animals in enclosures that were next to each other, and we allowed contact between the two while they were with one of their trainers, leashes and collars in tow. We encouraged relaxed, calm behavior. We gradually moved to allowing the dog off leash and encouraged relaxed, calm behavior.
The San Diego Zoo says dogs often become the leaders in such pairings.