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Founding cheetah Thula dies at Safari West

Thula, a beloved cheetah at Safari West, passed away on Feb. 27, 2018. Photo by Mark Pressler.

DANNY MUELLER, FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Thula, a founding cheetah in Safari West's exotic wildlife program, died on Feb. 27, according to a park release.

"Farewell to our Beloved Thula," reads a post on the Safari West website. "While we grieve the loss of a dearly loved animal and friend, we are heartened by the knowledge that Thula enjoyed a long and valuable life. We love you, Thula. We will miss you fiercely."

Thula came to the sprawling, 400-acre preserve with her sister, Gijima, when she was just six weeks old in 2001. As an "ambassador" cheetah, Thula was raised in closer contact with handlers Marie Martinez and Leslie Thalman.

She and Gijima, who died in 2016, had slowed into "quiet retirement" in recent years, according to the park's release.