The little cub didn’t want to sit still. He was too excited. In a matter of days, Tavi the 10-week-old cheetah went from abandoned cub to educator.
Tavi recently arrived in the care of the professionals at Wild Wonders, a conservation and education center in Bonsall. Director Jackie Navarro said the cub was neglected by his mother.
“Unfortunately, in order to save his life, he had to be pulled and hand-raised,” Navarro said.
Tavi is in good hands. The Wild Wonders staff has cared for several cheetahs among dozens of other four-legged creature teachers. The cheetah cub will eventually join their ranks.
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“He’s going to be educating kids, big and little, about why these cheetahs are so important in the wild,” Navarro said.
Tavi will also fill a hole in Navarro’s heart that was created earlier this year when the center’s elder statesman cheetah, Victor, succumbed to bone cancer.
“Devastating,” Navarro said, holding back tears. “He was the heart and soul of Wild Wonders, and he was my heart and soul.”
Losing Victor in February may have been the low point of the pandemic for the center, which was already brutally difficult to keep up care for dozens of animal species. Schools and in-person visits all but disappeared in 2020.
“We miss the schools, and we miss the libraries,” Navarro said. “We miss being able to teach on a larger level.”
Navarro looked forward to the crowds returning to meet the Wild Wonders animals and, eventually, Tavi. The center is now open for tours and special events.
“That is my favorite part, because there’s something about looking into those eyes of these animals that reaches into your soul,” Navarro said.