Heart health no stress for cheetah Kulinda

26 May 2023

Even the fittest and fastest creatures occasionally need to slow down for their heart health.

After months of consistent training, Werribee Open Range Zoo keepers have successfully asked 10-year-old cheetah Kulinda to approach a protected-contact area and present her tail so her blood pressure can be measured.

African River Trail keeper Suzanne Szabo said blood pressure monitoring is one of several preventative healthcare behaviours that keepers train to ensure the big cat stays happy and healthy in her golden years.

“In the wild, Cheetah live an average of eight years, however in a protected environment they can live up to 14 years,” Ms Szabo said. “With Kulinda being an elderly cheetah, it’s really important that we monitor her health."

“We have also been training Kulinda to participate in voluntary blood tests, which are returning good results.

“In combination with her recent blood pressure results, she appears to be in great health.”

Similar to humans, undetected high blood pressure in Cheetah can place strain on the heart and impact the supply of blood and oxygen to the brain. The Zoo’s veterinarians and keepers use results to make slight adjustments to Kulinda’s diet and the opportunities for exercise and exploration.

Ms Szabo said animal training across Zoos Victoria’s four properties aims to providing the least intrusive, most positive healthcare possible.

“During training, Kulinda has the choice to approach us and allow us to take her tail for tests, while maintaining the option to walk away if she doesn’t feel comfortable. This gives her full control during the whole session.”

To reinforce the training behaviour, Kulinda is rewarded with high-value food items, such as meatballs, which helps to build an enduring and trusting bond with her keepers.

As a wide-ranging carnivore, Cheetah are particularly vulnerable to habitat destruction caused by urbanisation. There are now fewer than 7,000 individuals remaining in the wild

Werribee Open Range Zoo visitors are reminded that all tickets must be pre-booked online at zoo.org.au. Zoos Victoria Members no longer need to book but are required to scan their Membership card for entry.

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