Cheetah pairs with pup, cuteness off the charts - San Diego, California News Station - KFMB Channel 8 - cbs8.com

Cheetah pairs with pup, cuteness off the charts

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - You can't help but fall for Ruuxa and Raina, an adorable duo just starting a lifelong playful friendship at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Ruuxa is a seven-week-old cheetah cub on his way to becoming an animal ambassador. Raina is a little older -- she's an eight-week-old Rhodesian ridgeback puppy that's helping Ruuxa relax when he's in public.

"By having a dog with them, they will take cues from the dog and be comfortable in any odd or different surroundings," animal training manager Susie Ekard said.

Raina was carefully chosen to be a companion because of her sweet nature and young age. Ruuxa was rejected by his mother since he was a single cub, but he quickly found a home at Safari Park, where he will be hand-raised by keepers.

"In the wild, the cheetah cub mortality rate is as high as 90 percent in the first year of their life. That's why mom won't expend the energy to take care of a single cub," Ekard said.

Now Ruuxa and Raina play like brother and bigger sister under the watchful eye of their keepers, and in front of a delighted crowd.

Within a couple of years, Ruuxa will be a full-grown ambassador. Watching him get there can be as educational as it is precious.

"We're trying to connect people to wildlife, and seeing an animal like that and learning about them just gives that connection and makes them want to help," Ekard said.

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