The San Diego Zoo companions their cheetahs, a fleeing animal, with dogs to make them more comfortable in different situations.
Even with his furry friend by his side, Coop the cheetah couldn’t handle facing the entire Texas Tech football team on Friday afternoon.
But Cabo the sea lion was fearless.
He barked, smiled, slid, swam and even did his seal and shark impressions for the Red Raiders in the Wegeforth Bowl.
“They seem to think that (scaring off the cheetah) was a good sign, so we’ll see,” head coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “They brought the sea lion out and it was cool. It’s good for our kids to see these things.”
For many of the Red Raiders, this was their first trip to the San Diego Zoo, including senior linebacker Terrance Bullitt.
“It was awesome,” Bullitt said. “I’m surprised (the sea lions) know all those tricks. Real smart; I didn’t realize. Some animals are really smart, and I hear the chimpanzees are almost human smart. I’m anxious to see that. The trainers do a great job, even though I wish I could have seen the cheetah, but it’s probably best that the big ol’ linemen sitting at the front didn’t see him. He probably would have eaten one of them.”
Home to more than 3,700 rare and endangered species, the zoo offered a multitude of different things to see, both from above on the Skyfari or walking from the Discovery Outpost to the Lost Forest and more.
Kingsbury, after some thought, said his favorite animal is “probably a tiger.”
Junior wide receiver Bradley Marquez was excited about seeing the monkeys.
“I’m a big monkey guy,” Marquez said. “Hopefully I’ll get to hold one, I’m hoping. I’m looking forward to the monkeys the most.”
Senior safety Tre’ Porter was looking forward to the lions, saying he has “a heart of a lion.”
As for Bullitt, he wanted to see the gorillas.
“That’s what I really want to see the most,” he said. “I’m kind of scared of them. I’m really scared of all the animals; that’s why I sat at the back. I’m going to go with my teammates and be all around and just see the animals.”
With visits to SeaWorld on Thursday and the San Diego Zoo on Friday, Kingsbury was glad his players were given the opportunity to participate.
“I think it’s great to have some worldly experiences,” Kingsbury said. “This is one of the greatest zoos in the world. To be in a great city like San Diego for a week, a lot of our kids don’t get to leave the state very often. So to be out here means a lot to us coaches to watch them enjoy this.”
Senior Public Relations Representative Jenny Mehlow has worked at the zoo for five and a half years and enjoys hosting the bowl teams each year.
“They may be big guys on the field,” Mehlow said. “They might run fast. They might hit hard, but you get them out here and they all turn into kids.”
Mehlow, a Texas Tech alum, was “very excited” to host the Red Raiders.
“This is the first time I’ve been able to host Texas Tech at the San Diego Zoo,” she said. “I graduated in December of 1997 and I haven’t attended a Texas Tech football game since that fall, so Monday night will be my first Texas Tech game.”