Shiley’s Cheetah Run at the Safari Park has a new sprinter. Ruuxa, our young male cheetah ambassador, made his debut at Cheetah Run recently. At just over one and a half years old, this is quite a feat for the energetic cheetah. At a young age, he was diagnosed with chondrodysyplasia, a growth abnormality in his forelegs causing a bowing of the limbs.
Upon diagnosis of the genetic condition, the Safari Park’s veterinarians determined Ruuxa needed surgery to correct the problem so he could lead a normal active life. On Sept 3, 2014, four-month-old Ruuxa received his surgery—accompanied by his faithful dog companion, Raina.
Ruuxa and Raina, a Rhodesian ridgeback, were placed together at four and five weeks of age, respectively, to be raised as ambassador animals after the cheetah cub was rejected by his mother and was hand raised by keepers. This pair has always been uniquely bonded, and although we are proud of the relationship between all of our cheetah ambassadors and their respective dog companions, Ruuxa’s and Raina’s bond is the strongest.
When Ruuxa had his surgery, Raina was there to comfort him and lie right inside of his crate with him while he recovered. She was very careful about moving around his bandaged legs. She never tried to play with the bandages or play with Ruuxa in a rough manner when he was in the healing stage.
Raina definitely has been a great big sister to Ruuxa and provides him the feeling of having a “sibling” from his earliest memories. She gives him the confidence to face situations in which he may feel uncomfortable. Raina’s body language communicates to Ruuxa that there is nothing to fear in new or public surroundings, which relaxes and calms the cat.
Ruuxa recovered well from his surgery and didn’t stay inactive for very long. He returned to playing and physical activity much more quickly than expected. Today, Ruuxa leads an active, normal life for an ambassador cheetah. He enjoys making appearances, walking on Park grounds, and sprinting at our Cheetah Run event. And Raina enjoys all of these things too! Ruuxa inspires the “spirit” in all of us to seize the day, every day.
Janet Rose-Hinostroza is an animal training supervisor at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Read her previous blog, King Cheetah Brothers Reign at the Park.