A cheetah at Turtle Back Zoo has been given emotional support from a therapy dog after it became so nervous in front of zoo visitors.
While it might be amazing to head to the zoo to have a look at species from all over the world, it can be a pretty intimidating experience for the animals inside the enclosures.
But you’d probably be surprised that some animals get so nervous about all the strange faces in front of them that they need a bit of help. Therapy dogs have been installed in zoos across the planet and they’re proving to be hugely beneficial.
Staff at the Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange, New Jersey, decided to bring in a companion for its shy cheetah named Nandi.
The golden Labrador x Golden retriever, called Bowie, has been with the African animal since it was very young and has helped ease her anxiety when her environment is getting a little hectic.
They’ve since become best friends and are now a big attraction at the zoo. Who would have thought these two animals could become pals?
Turtle Back Zoo’s Charlotte Trapman-O’Brien told CBS: “Bowie has a very important job here, which is to be, kind of, her confidence builder. So cheetah’s are naturally skittish by nature, so one of the things that allows us to bring her out and do educational presentations like this is having Bowie by her side.”
Bowie has been given the same training as a therapy dog, meaning he is best placed to look out for any signs of distress.
His training might have been adapted slightly from a human to suit a cheetah.
Trainer Samantha Wegman also told CBS: “We do need him to be calm. That’s his whole job with the cheetah.
“So no matter what else is going on, if something startles her, she needs to look to him, and he needs to be calm. So he’s been exposed to a lot of different environments. Part of the reason he comes home with us at night is to get him exposed to all different scenarios: Car rides, honking cars.”
Turtle Back Zoo says their work is vital because it educates people about the plight of the species. There are around 7,000 cheetahs left in the wild in west Africa and the more people know about these majestic creatures, the better.
Zoos usually like to get puppies and newborn animals together quickly so that they can also control the amount of energy they have and share emotional support.
Hopefully these two get to be friends for many years to come and Nandi’s anxiety stays at an absolute minimum.