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Cheetah cubs take a walk around the Zoo

11 April 2005

Cheetah cubs take a walk around the Zoo

Wellington Zoo visitors shouldn’t be surprised if late in the afternoon they see new Cheetah cubs Delta and Charlie taking a stroll with their handlers.

The Zoo’s move towards an up-close and personal experience for its visitors has taken a step further with the cubs’ occasional out-of-enclosure exercise regime.

Animal Conditioner Gerry Whitehouse-Tedd describes the Cheetahs’ new activity as “part of their acclimatisation. They need to get used to new sounds, sights, smells and movements.”

However, with highly experienced Animal Conditioners, any danger to visitors is virtually non-existent provided people follow the instructions of the handlers and Zoo staff when they are around the Cheetahs.

“Obviously the same care needs to be taken as with all animals. These are Cheetahs at the end of the day,” warns Gerry.

Wellington Zoo’s newest Animal Conditioner, Annemieke Timmermans, says all necessary training and precautions are taken to ensure that the experience is as safe as possible for the public and animals.

While the regime is new to the Cheetahs, they seem to be enjoying it - judging from the success of Charlie’s first walk a few days ago.

“Delta was a bit spooked on his first day out because the trees were waving in the wind, but he was fine on his second day and they’ll both get more relaxed as time goes on,” says Gerry.

Born at De Wildt Cheetah and Wildlife Centre in South Africa, the cubs were hand-reared at Cheetah Outreach in Capetown and arrived at Wellington Zoo in March this year with the help of sponsorship from Singapore Airlines.

They will eventually participate in the Zoo’s Close Encounter programme offering animals and visitors the opportunity to interact more closely with wild animals. The Close Encounter programme’s purpose is to facilitate a greater awareness among the public as to the conservation issues facing particular species.

Other Close Encounters involve red pandas, giraffes and big cats as well as a range of longer, more varied, Encounters such as Keeper for a Day.


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