Advertisement

Unlikely friendships: This cheetah-tortoise duo are inseparable and will melt your heart

Penzie the tortoise and Tuesday the cheetah are capturing the hearts of Florida park visitors, social media users with their endearing friendship

One of the world's most unlikely friendships between the world's fastest land mammal and world's slowest reptile is capturing the hearts of visitors attending a Florida conservation centre and social media users alike.

Flocking from near and far, guests at Carson Springs Wildlife Conservation centre in Florida will stumble across an enclosure containing a cheetah named Tuesday and a tortoise named Penzie, who according to park facilitator Christine Janks, are "inseperable."

"She absolutely adores him," Janks says in an interview with Yahoo News Canada.

There is almost never a time where the pair are far apart, taking on activities like napping and eating side-by-side.

"She steals his food," Janks said. "She (Tuesday) has learned to love avocados — his favourite, and has also learned to love tortoise pellets."

Penzie and Tuesday at Florida conservation centre love sharing meals. (Photo courtesy: Carson Springs Wildlife Conservation Foundation)
Penzie and Tuesday at Florida conservation centre love sharing meals. (Photo courtesy: Carson Springs Wildlife Conservation Foundation)

So how do a cheetah and a tortoise become an inseparable duo?

Tuesday was born at the wildlife centre in 2018, ironically on a Wednesday. "I just like the name Tuesday," Janks said. Penzie, who is approximately 20-years-old is a long-time resident of the conservation centre.

"We thought we would try them in the same enclosure together because we were told cheetahs typically ignore tortoises and we thought it would make a great visual," Janks said.

The park keepers were completely caught off guard when not only did Tuesday do the complete opposite, but the pair became stuck to each other like glue.

"He tolerates her," Janks said. "He would probably like her a lot more if she didn't lick him in the face as tortoises are not big on being licked in the face."

They also sleep together, with Janks saying Tuesday can often be spotted with his head resting on Penzie's shell.

Penzie the tortoise and Tuesday the cheetah are an inseparable duo. (Photo courtesy: Carson Springs Wildlife Conservation Foundation)
Penzie the tortoise and Tuesday the cheetah are an inseparable duo. (Photo courtesy: Carson Springs Wildlife Conservation Foundation)

Just how safe is Penzie with a full-grown cheetah, who are known for their hunting prowess and capable of taking down a full-size wildebeest?

"They have been together from an early age, so the chances of her being aggressive is minimal," Janks explains.

She says she wouldn't be comfortable placing Penzie with another full-grown cheetah as they could simply bite his head or limbs off in one bite, even if it was just play.

"She's never tried to bite him, she's never wounded him except for licking him," Janks said.

Janks and her husband founded Carson Springs Wildlife Conservation after they both walked away from longtime careers in thoroughbred horse racing.

Her love for cheetahs led the couple to travel to a cheetah foundation in South Africa in 2001, and after an initial tour, not only did her love for the species deepen, but she decided she wanted to adopt a cheetah.

Janks said she spearheaded a program where she brokered a deal with South African farmers to avoid shooting cheetahs who would prey on their livestock, and instead, she would take them into her care.

The 17-hour flight back and forth from mainland U.S. to South Africa took a toll on the couple, leading them to transform their horse racing facility into a wildlife sanctuary and moving operations from the African continent to the U.S.

Today, over 25 different species call the wildlife sanctuary home as guests learn about their stories, and funds raised are directed to further conservation efforts.