Busch Gardens Tampa Bay’s Cheetah and Yellow Lab Pair Celebrate One Year of Friendship

It has been one year since Busch Gardens Tampa Bay had the public debut of an 8 week old male cheetah cub and 16 week old female yellow Labrador Retriever puppy.  The two animals, later named Kasi and Mtani by park fans, were paired together and live together full time at the park’s Cheetah Run habitat.  Continue reading for Busch Gardens’ photos and video of the cheetah/puppy buddies.

Photo by Matt Marriott, courtesy of Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

The video below, from Busch Gardens, provides glimpses of the animals from when they were first paired one year ago until now.  Beware, the video contains scenes of very cute, young, fuzzy, creatures… you’ve been warned.

The pair can not only be seen in the park, but also travel together to schools, events and television studios, helping the park’s education team teach the public about the plight of cheetahs in the wild and the importance of Busch Gardens’ conservation efforts.

Photo by Matt Marriott, courtesy of Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

 

Park guests can see Kasi and Mtani daily at Cheetah Run, where they spend a portion of each day playing together on the habitat, training with their keepers and exercising with the habitat’s lure system, designed to encourage the animals to do what cheetahs (and Mtani, too!) do best: run and chase.

Photo by Matt Marriott, courtesy of Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

 

Although this is Busch Gardens’ first cub-and-puppy combo, it is not uncommon in the zoological community for a single cheetah to be raised with a canine companion.  “Male cheetahs are social and often live together in coalitions,” said Tim Smith, a zoo manager who works with the cheetah team daily.  “This social bond will be a very similar relationship, and they will be together for life.”

Photo by Matt Marriott, courtesy of Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

 

Cheetahs are included on both the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) list of vulnerable species as well as on the US Endangered Species Act list of threatened species.  Only approximately 12,400 cheetahs remain in the wild.  Busch Gardens supports the conservation of and education about cheetahs through the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund, which has donated nearly $100,000 to cheetah efforts in Africa since 2005 and also helps fund conservation programs for white rhinos, marine animals and many other species around the world.

Photo by Matt Marriott, courtesy of Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

 

Update: Kasi, visited the park’s new Animal Care Center today for his one-year check-up.

Photo by Matt Marriott, courtesy of Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

 

The 90-minute routine procedure included cleaning Kasi’s teeth, taking X-rays and using an endoscope to check out and take biopsies along his digestive tract.  Kasi was under anesthetic during the procedure, and by early afternoon was awake and resuming his normal afternoon activities in his bedroom at the Cheetah Run habitat.

Photo by Matt Marriott, courtesy of Busch Gardens Tampa Bay

 

Kasi turned one year old in February, and recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of his relationship with his puppy pal, Mtani the yellow lab. During Kasi’s check-up, Mtani and her handlers watched from the guest side of the Animal Care Center’s Examination Room viewing window.

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About Dave Parfitt

Married, father of two girls, and living in the heart of the Finger Lakes. I'm a runner with a PhD in neuroscience and a passion for travel.