I've only been back to the Safari a couple times since I was laid off from my seasonal position 3.5 years ago. I guess it was not fulfilling for me to go as a visitor after having the behind the scenes view for so long.
Today, though, Alex and I ventured back out to walk through the village. When I worked there they had two maned wolves but they were off-site while an enclosure was being arranged for them. Today was the first time I saw them in person and they are gorgeous creatures! The look like really tall foxes and eat small rodents, birds and vegetation. Take a look for yourselves!
We also saw the new American Alligator exhibit along with a new housing building with a cougar exhibit (Cougar is name Mesa and has been there for a number of years but was not on display), a bobcat exhibit and another exhibit but I forget what it is.
The Wildlife Safari is one of the most successful cheetah breeding facilities ever and has and is making great strides in not only expanding cheetah breeding lines but also in preserving the amazing species. It is believed that cheetahs went through what is known as a "genetic bottleneck" around the last ice age so there is very little genetic variation resulting in potential inbreeding and low sperm count and mobility.
The Safari has a cheetah that was an only cub and so she is an ambassador for not only the species, but the Safari as a whole. She visits schools and walks around the village, you can even have your photo taken with her but there's no touching allowed. The cheetahs at the Safari are handled in "free contact" meaning there is no barrier between the animals and the keepers, but there's almost always a barrier between the animals and the visitors to the park. Taini (Ty-eeny), the ambassador cheetah, spends a lot of her time in an exhibit at the beginning of the village (walk-through part of the park) while the other cheetahs spend their time in the drive through part in groups. Taini must have been out on an encounter today, or possibly in the drive-through, as Sanura (Su-nor-uh) took her place in the village. Sanura was another single cub and was raised with an unusual friend as a "littermate".
Her "littermate's" name is Ellie and she's an Anatolian Shepherd. They're both almost five years old now but are still very close and Ellie can be seen in the drive-through not only in Sanura's enclosure but with many of the other cheetahs as well. Anatolian Shepherds are livestock guarding dogs originally from Turkey. They were used to protect flocks from wolves, bears, jackals and cheetahs but they are also known for being able to co-exist with cheetahs quite well. Sanura and Ellie are a great example of that capabality. I don't have a photo of Ellie although we did see her out on a walk through the woods as we were leaving the Safari but here is an example of an Anatolian Shepherd that looks quite a bit like her.
I talked to the staffing agency that is working with the Safari yesterday and the owner said he'll get me back out there if they want me so I'm expecting to get to go back soon (as they loved me out there and didn't lay me off until they simply could no longer afford to keep me which ended up being more than two months after they were supposed to lay me off). I'm not sure what department I'd be in yet but I'm hoping for Elephants (of course), village or the cheetah department although I would be more than willing to do a support position as well, as long as I get to go back! I even picked out the jacket I want to buy if I do go back as employees have to wear a Safari shirt and if it's cold a Safari jacket or sweater. Oh, I'm getting excited, counting my eggs before they hatch I guess!
If I do go back though, expect many more posts about the different animals. I'll give some inside information (like Sanura and Taini being only cubs or the maned wolves having been kept off-site) but of course there is information that has to be kept confidential so I won't be able to share all but hopefully if I go back you all will enjoy the new dimension to my blog! Puppies, Celiac and exotic animals! What's better than that?