Cheetahs may be the fastest mammals in the world, but they also one of the most skittish species, so much so that zoos throughout the world report that it is interfering with their mating habits, and “placing them in danger of going extinct.”
“The cheetahs most often found at zoos and wildlife parks are not considered good breeding candidates, they don't relate well to other cheetahs, or they are abandoned by their mothers,” stated Janet Rose-Hinostroza, animal training supervisor at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park the top U.S. breeder of cheetahs in captivity. In the past 40 years, 135 cheetahs have been born at the park's breeding facility.
“However, we have found that they seem to take easily to companion dogs and look to the dogs for play and guidance.”
In fact, four out of the Park’s 19 cats now have their own dogs, which were rescued from shelters and then introduced to baby cheetahs when they are about 3 months old..
"In this relationship, the dog is dominant, but we look for dogs that want to be a buddy," Rose-Hinostroza said. "The dog always has the cat's back, but it's never the other way around. Dogs worry about their cats. They protect their cats."
It's a love story of one species helping another species survive," said Jack Grisham, vice president of animal collections at the St. Louis Zoo and species survival plan coordinator for cheetahs in North America.
In addition, Rose-Hinostroza noted that dogs are now helping cheetah conservation in Africa as well.. "For the first time in 30 years, the cheetah population in the wild is on the rise because ranchers don't have to shoot them anymore. They don't need to shoot them. The dog is that effective at keeping the cheetah away from the herd," Rose-Hinostroza said.