Interspecies friendships never fail to tug at our heartstrings.
At the Metro Richmond Zoo, a Labrador mix and a cheetah cub have forged an unlikely, but awesome friendship.
Cheetah cub,Kumbali, was one of four cheetah cubs born on May 12 this year at the zoo. Sadly, one female cub in the litter passed away only a few hours after birth.
When Kumbali was only 2 weeks-old, zoo caretakers realized he had lost weight over two consecutive checkups.
The concerned staff needed to find a way to help Kumbali survive and thrive.
The cub’s mom, Khari, wasn’t producing enough milk for her three cubs. Only 2 of her 8 nipples were productive, and little Kumbali was not getting his share.
Zoo staff took the tiny cub away from his mom and started bottle-feeding him to ensure his health and growth.
That took care of his nutritional needs, but it wasn’t enough. Kumbali needed a companion to socialize with and that’s when Kago entered the picture.
Kago, a Labrador mix puppy, was adopted from a pet rescue organization when he was only 10 weeks-old. After a quarantine period, the pup was introduced to his new, unlikely companion.
“You know, when we pulled Kumbali, he was just two weeks old. He was just a little guy and we had to keep him in an incubator to regulate his body temperature and feed him every two hours throughout the night,” Jim Andelin, owner and keeper of the Metro Richmond Zoo said.
Zoo staff were a bit worried and uncertain when they introduced Kago and Kumbali. After the pair inspected each other thoroughly, the connection was almost instant and they became firm buddies.
The puppy and the cheetah cub were initially raised together in a zookeeper’s home to provide close monitoring and care. As Kumbali and Kago grew older, they were moved to an outdoor enclosure.
“They’ve picked up each other’s traits. They’re never separate,” Andelin said.“They’ll explore at different times by themselves, but never with the other too far away.”
According to Metro Richmond Zoo’s press release:
“Cheetahs are quite different from their cousins – the lions and tigers. They are inherently wired for ‘flight’ instead of ‘fight,’ making them incredibly fast scaredy cats. Despite their anxious habits, male cheetahs are social animals. In the wild, they form coalitions with other males – usually their brothers. Kumbali was all alone, so we wanted him to have another four legged companion. Even though this symbiotic relationship would never happen in the wild, it has been very successful in zoos. Dogs have been used as companion animals for cheetahs for over thirty years. The dog provides a calming influence for the cheetah by giving him behavioral cues. Dogs are less fearful of new surroundings and embrace them with confidence. That calmness helps the cheetah remain calm as well.”
Ever since Kago and Kumbali met, they have become inseparable.
Zoo goers line up to see the amazing friendship these unlikely buddies have forged.
What a beautiful pair!