Two very special cheetah brothers recently arrived at the Safari Park. Isoka (Soka for short) and Okubi (Kubi for short) come from one of the largest captive cheetah litters ever recorded. Born September 1, 2014, they are two of eight cubs from a facility in Connecticut. Their mother is a King cheetah, which is a rare genetic variation giving cheetahs a larger stature and striped markings. Since Isoka and Okubi are only “half” King cheetah, they do not have stripes but they are large and have some interesting markings. Although they arrived right around their first birthday without any formal training, they have taken to the ambassador lifestyle incredibly well and can be seen making appearances around the Park in preparation for joining our Shiley’s Cheetah Run event in 2016.
Canine companion: There are no plans to pair Isoka and Okubi with canine companions. These brothers have each other. They are very bonded and take comfort in one another. However, we do tend to take our pound puppy, Hopper, along for their run training. They benefit from seeing the dog’s relaxed nature and being encouraged by it.
Personality: The brothers’ names are derived from Swahili; Isoka means “dear one” and Okubi means “mischievous,” which does reflect their personalities quite well. Isoka is the “dominant” big brother and tends to be more relaxed and confident. Okubi sticks close to his brother in new situations.
Favorite cheetah: They are certainly bonded to one another, but out of all of our cheetah ambassadors, they really enjoy watching Bahati (female with the exact same birth date, although no relation) and her dog, Willow.
Favorite game: Generally, Isoka likes to nap and Okubi likes to play with anything and everything. They both enjoy running after a plush lure toy. Trainers enjoy their stereo purr. They enjoy their training sessions. They are good students that are eager to learn.
Favorite toy: Well, they are brothers so technically “each other,” but their favorite plush toy to chase on the track looks like a raccoon.
Favorite food: Isoka loves rabbit. Okubi won’t touch it – he actually hides from it! But he likes beef, extremely rare…okay raw.
Track record: Although we haven’t recorded any time yet, they are doing very well on the track. What’s really interesting is that Okubi runs faster than his big brother Isoka – but he always slows up at the end of the run to allow his “big” brother to win the race and get the toy first.
Janet Rose-Hinostroza is animal training supervisor at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.