Puppy And Cheetah Cub Are Best Friends At Richmond Zoo
News| | By Jason Owen
The Metro Richmond Zoo in Virginia announced a new – and adorable! – exhibit for visitors this week by introducing a cheetah and puppy duo who are the best of friends. Kumbali was the youngest cheetah cub of a litter of three. When she was just a few weeks old, her caretakers noticed that while the other two cubs were getting larger, Kumbali was actually getting smaller. They quickly dove into the problem and discovered Kumbali’s mother had only two functioning nipples of eight. Kumbali hadn’t been eating. Zookeepers quickly took Kumbali to bottle-raise the cub and would eventually reintroduce him to the pack.
Within weeks, Kumbali was getting stronger and returned to full strength, but due to the nature of cheetahs, reintroducing Kumbali to his mom and siblings would be dangerous at that time as she would now consider him a threat to her other children. Still, Kumbali needed a companion that wasn’t a human. As the zoo said, “Man’s best friend would soon become cheetah’s, too.” For more than 30 years, dogs have been used as companion animals for cheetahs in these circumstances. From the website: “This symbiotic relationship would never happen in the wild; however, we believe the positive outcomes outweigh any negative. As the two grow up together, they create a bond that becomes almost inseparable, sibling-like. They provide companionship for each other. The dog has a calming influence because the cheetah will take behavioral cues from the dog– learning not to fear his surroundings, but instead embracing them with confidence. The dog normally becomes the dominant figure in the relationship by becoming the protector and leader. The cheetah will not hurt or kill his friend.” Enter Kago. Now, the two are the best of friends and the animals are teaching one another. They run, jump, and play all the time. “And maybe these two can teach humans something about living together as well,” said the zoo staff. “They don’t even seem to recognize their differences in species, size, or color. There is only acceptance. Maybe we, as humans, have some things to learn from these two?” To see Kumbali and Kago, the exhibit will be open Monday – Thursday from noon to 1 p.m., and Fridays and Saturdays from noon to 1 p.m. and again from 3 to 4 p.m.
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