Busch Gardens Tampa is celebrating a very special relationship this week. On Monday 16th April it was the one year anniversary of the first time park Guests got to see an 8 week old male cheetah cub and a 16 week old female yellow Labrador puppy start to strike up a friendship that the park's animal experts expect to last a lifetime.
The pair, who were later named Kasi and Mtani spent only supervised play times together at first. A year later, they live together full time at the park's Cheetah Run habitat and even 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.
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 do best: run and chase.
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.