Cheetah Cub and Puppy Companion at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Escondido, California - A cheetah cub, Ruuxa, and his female puppy companion, Raina, wrestled, ran and played as they participated in training sessions earlier today 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.

Visitors to the Safari Park may see Ruuxa and Raina in the Park's animal care center from 12:15 to 1 p.m. daily until Aug. 21. On Aug. 22, the pair will move to their new home behind the scenes at Benbough Amphitheater, where they can be seen on a Behind-the-Scenes Cheetah & Friends Tour, or guests may possibly see them on one of the training sessions around the Park.

Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the goal of San Diego Zoo Global. As a leader in conservation, the work of San Diego Zoo Global includes onsite wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) at the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents.  The important conservation and science work of these entities is made possible by the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy and is supported in part by the Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global.

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