The cheetah is the fastest land mammal in the world, making them truly effective predators when hunting and catching prey. One would think this would instill a level of confidence, but cheetahs are naturally very nervous animals. When raised in captivity, this can cause a problem for breeding.
One would think this would instill a level of confidence, but cheetahs are naturally very nervous animals. When raised in captivity, this can cause a problem for breeding.
Cheetahs As Support Animals
Zoos across the country have found an adorable solution to this problem. Zookeepers have been assigning lonely cheetahs their own emotional support dogs. Raised together from birth, these unlikely pairs roam the exhibit together and display signs of a strong sibling bond.
“It’s a love story of one species helping another species survive,” explains Jack Grisham, who is vice president of animal collections for the St. Louis Zoo. He is also known as the species survival plan coordinator for cheetahs in all of North America.
As one of the leading organizations for wild animal research, the San Diego Zoo has done most of the research when it comes to the effects dogs have on cheetahs.
“A dominant dog is very helpful because cheetahs are quite shy instinctively, and you can’t breed that out of them,” says Janet Rose-Hinostroza, a training supervisor at the San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park in North County San Diego.
Pairing The Animals
“When you pair them,” she continued, “the cheetah looks to the dog for cues and learns to model their behavior. It’s about getting them to read that calm, happy-go-lucky vibe from the dog.”
What Dogs Teach The Cheetahs
That’s right—cheetahs become so anxious and stressed that they will stop breeding. A cute Labrador retriever puppy, though, can come in to teach the cheetah how to relax. They instill a level of confidence in the cat which trains them to be more active and social.
Basically, the dogs help to train the big cats how to mate and reproduce… just like the way they help humans with emotional and social support.
Applications In The Wild
Applications of this phenomenon have made it to the wild. The declining cheetah population has caused many Africans to use dogs in order to build the cheetah population back up. The Anatolian Shepherd, originally from the Anatolia region in central Turkey, is the dog breed of choice for such a task.
Farmers use the Anatolian Shepherds to scare cheetahs away from their livestock. The dogs are used in lieu of trapping and shooting the animal, which has significantly contributed to its decline. The dog’s bark is enough to dissuade any big cat from entering farmland to mess with the farmer’s animals.
Wildlife expert Jack Hannah is on the forefront of this new movement. He leads the Cheetah Conservation Fund, whose goal is to help the cheetah thrive. He says the dogs will play a crucial role in the future of the cheetah.
“You may see, in history, that this dog could be responsible for saving the cheetah from extinction,” says Hannah. “That is one heck of a story right there.”
The Most Popular Zoo Attraction? The Dog
Until the cheetah population begins to thrive once more, zoos across the world are pairing the endangered cat with man’s best friend.
Like the Columbus Zoo, these expensive exhibits are attracting more people than the other exotic animals. People are flocking to their local zoos to view the common canine.