• This dog is more than just man’s best friend

    Posted on February 13, 2015 • News • 0 Comments

    Odie and Adaeze

     

    We know dogs are man’s best friend, but apparently that also applies to the rest of the animal kingdom.

    A cheetah cub named Adaeze (Daisy, for short) — a rare sight in captivity — is visiting Lion Country Safari through February and she’s not alone. She’s brought along a companion, Odie, an Australian shepherd that has become a sort of surrogate parent to Adaeze.

    “Odie is very protective of her. That’s his buddy,” said Marcella Leone, founder of the LEO Zoological Conservation Center in Greenwich, Conn., where Adaeze was reared and where they breed and release cheetahs back into the wild.

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    Sure dogs and cats living together are a sure sign of the apocalypse. And in Africa, they are natural enemies: Dogs are used to keep wild cheetah away from livestock.

    But Adaeze was born sickly to the largest cheetah litter ever recorded (eight cubs), had to be hand-raised by people, and that made it hard for her natural mother to care for her. So zoologists tried to pair Adaeze with a friendly golden retriever who would act as a surrogate.

    But Adaeze chose the rambunctious and playful Odie, who Leone called “a little bit naughty.” And they have been together ever since.

    Adaeze could not be raised to return to the wild. So she is being raised to be an ambassador for her species — the most endangered big cats in Africa. She  and Odie will tour different zoos and conservatories to raise awareness for cheetah’s and their diminished species.

    Rather than spend the winter months at the LEO Zoological Conservation Center for rare and endangered animals, Adaeze will spend the time in sunny Florida becoming accustomed to crowds.

    “We can show people how to learn to live with wildlife,” Leone said. “We want people to care about these beautiful animals and understand their struggles.”

    But only Adaeze travels with her own, personal valet.

    IF YOU GO

    Lion Country Safari

    Where: 2003 Lion Country Safari Road, Loxahatchee

    When: Open daily, 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

    Tickets: Adults, $31.50; children,$23.

    More information: 561-793-1084 or online at http://www.lioncountrysafari.com

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