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Baby cheetah among exotic San Diego Zoo animals visiting Las Vegas


Justin M. Bowen

A baby Cheetah named Kiburi is seen at the AAA Green Valley Branch Wednesday, May 11, 2011 as the San Diego Zoo Safari Park made a stop on their U.S. tour.

San Diego Zoo Safari Park Visits Henderson

A baby Cheetah named Kiburi is seen at the AAA Green Valley Branch Wednesday, May 11, 2011 as the San Diego Zoo Safari Park made a stop on their U.S. tour. Launch slideshow »

Kiburi isn’t even six months old and he’s already a star in Las Vegas.

The baby cheetah was born Nov. 14 at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and was one of four animals from the more than 3,000 that reside in the park that took a special trip to Las Vegas this week.

It was the cheetah’s first trip away from home as an ambassador for the park, which until recently was known as the Wild Animal Park.

Park ambassadors (both the human and animal kinds) take occasional trips to other cities to promote the world-famous attraction. Recently some of the animals were in Phoenix and others went to New York.

Even though Las Vegas is known as a travel destination, park officials thought Las Vegas residents would be interested in visiting San Diego.

“We know that the people here like to get away to San Diego to get away from their routines,” ambassador Rick Schwartz said.

Schwartz and some of the trainers from the zoo came to Las Vegas, making appearances Wednesday on KLAS Channel 8 and KTNV Channel 13. They’re scheduled to visit KVVU Fox 5 on Thursday.

They also spent an hour at the AAA office on Green Valley Parkway in Henderson giving the public a chance to see – but not touch – the animals.

Along with Kiburi, the cheetah, the park brought Kasten, a caracal cat, Bella, a serval cat, and Mango, a military macaw parrot.

The AAA visit was a hit, especially for young kids. Just a few minutes after the presentation began, more than two dozen people were crowded into a small area outside the office trying to get a better view of the animals.

Tracy Berger brought her three children after school all the way from Summerlin to see the animals.

“We need more places around here to see animals,” Berger said.

Her son, Jack, said the animals are better in person than seeing a photograph in a book.

“Sometimes the pictures are just black and white, and here you can actually see them,” he said.

The trip is also a coming-of-age experience for Kiburi. Once he gets back to San Diego on Thursday, he’ll be ready to move into the main cheetah area with the adults instead of going back to the nursery.

No word yet on whether he will tell his parents what happened.

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