Cheetah babies to be Oregon park ambassadors

WINSTON, Ore. -- The Wildlife Safari in Winston, Ore., is training two young Cheetahs to be park ambassadors, and KPIC News got a close-up look at how they are doing.

Mchumba and Khayam are just about 4-months-old.

The two spend all day every day with their four trainers, learning how to become ambassadors to the park. "Right now, they're in their playful, just care about eating and playing stage, so we haven't started with a lot of the behaviors like 'sit' and 'lay down.' That will probably start in another month to six weeks," said Sarah Roy, the park's Carnivore Supervisor.

Currently, their training is mostly just bonding with their handlers and with each other. But soon, they will be ready to take on a bigger role at the park.

The current ambassador, Taini, goes to dozens of schools every year while park officials teach kids about conservation, and Sarah believes that makes a huge impact on the students. "When you get to see one up close and personal and listen to it purring in a microphone, they just really want to get involved," Roy said.

But Mchumba and Khayam have a long way to go before they're ready for that, and Roy says that they're putting in long days, and nights, to prepare the two cubs. "We are all running on fumes," said Roy. "This summer, we are basically living at the park."

On Friday, something happened that will keep the cheetah trainers even busier: the park had another litter of cheetah babies.

Mchumba and Khayam's mother, Marlindi, gave birth to three cubs on Friday afternoon.

The two ambassadors are being hand-raised because their mother neglected them, but officials say she's taking great care of the new cubs.

With the new litter, the Wildlife Safari has produced 171 cheetah cubs over the past 40 years.

So far, Roy says that all three babies seem healthy and active. But, just to be sure that the cubs are OK, the trainers are watching a monitor around the clock.

That, coupled with training Mchumba and Khayam, has left the trainers pretty busy.

Sarah says it's more than worth it. "Waking up next to a baby cheetah that's purring, it's just amazing," she said. "There's nothing cooler than that."