'Art' by rescued cheetah to raise awareness in Abu Dhabi

Stumped for weekend activity ideas? Teach the kids about animal conservation with Jasper the cheetah at Emirates Park Zoo

  • Jasper and Shazly were among a group of 15 smuggled cheetahs intercepted by officials near the Saudi borderImage Credit: Supplied
  • Jasper with his 'art'Image Credit: Facebook/ Emirates Park Zoo
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'Artwork' by a cheetah cub is now on sale at Emirates Park Zoo and Resort, with the proceeds going to animal conservation. Jasper, one of two young wild cats rescued from the Saudi Arabian border, has been trained to paint using non-toxic children’s finger paint and canvas, the park said in a press handout.

With fellow cub Shazly, he is one of two cubs at the Abu Dhabi attraction to have survived being smuggled into the country. Of a total of 15 cubs that were rescued by officials, all thought to have been taken from the wild, four were taken to Emirates Park Zoo and Resort. There, they were treated for malnourishment and feline leukemia. While two cubs succumed to their illnesses within the first couple of days, Jasper and Shazly both recovered and socialised completely into the zoo environment.

“Jasper took a liking to all the keepers and has a very friendly personality,” says Jessica Spohr, Emirates Park Zoo Head Zookeeper, and the cubs’ primary caregiver. “Once he was six months old, we started training him for husbandry behaviors such as sit, down, target, station, etc. that allowed us to use him not only as an ambassador animal, but to help in medical procedures and any other husbandry we needed to give him”.

Authorities say Jasper was trained to paint using the trained behaviors and positive reinforcement. The works are now available for viewing for the general public, as well as for sale. All the profits will go to conservation both within Emirates Park Zoo and with organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund and the Cheetah Conservation Fund, the attraction said in a release.

“With the promotion of Jasper’s art, the management hopes to help cheetahs in the wild and teach people about the horrors of wildlife trafficking,” Aaliyah Hana, the CEO of Emirates Park Zoo and Resort said. “Jasper and Shazly were some of the lucky ones, but 4 out of 5 cubs smuggled for the pet trade don’t survive the journey. A population of 100,000 cheetahs has dwindled to 7000 because of many issues (this being one of them), and something has to be done.”

Guests can view Jasper and Shazly, as well as the 'artwork', at Emirates Park Zoo and Resort. It is open from 9 am to 8 pm on weekdays and from 9am to 9pm on weekends. For more information, e-mail info@emiratespark.ae