This Australian Shepard Is Helping to Raise Newborn Tiger Cubs at the Cincinnati Zoo
Meet Blakely, the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden’s most versatile employee.
Blakely has taken on a new role of helping to mother three female Malayan tiger cubs after being ignored by their mother when they were born. The Australian Shepard is the resident companion at the zoo and provides many snuggle and cuddling sessions for the 5-week-old tiger pups.
“He’s more than just a large, warm pillow for the cubs. Blakely is the adult in the room,” Dawn Strasser, head of Cincinnati Zoo’s nursery staff, said in a statement. “He teaches them proper tiger etiquette by checking them when they’re getting too rough or aggressive. This is something that their human surrogates can’t do.”
This isn’t the first time Blakely has stepped up to the plate and helped out at the zoo as a companion. Just last year, Blakely helped “mother” five newborn cheetah cubs after their mom passed away. Blakely has also assisted in raising a baby calf, “an ocelot, a takin, a warthog, wallabies, skunks and bat-eared foxes.”
The city of Cincinnati even declared October 19 to be “Blakely Day,” as a way to honor all of the hard work this dog has put in.
The three cubs are named Chira, Izzy, and Barari. Chira was named after her chiropractor visit, while Izzy and Batari’s names mean God and goddess, respectively
Currently, the zoo staff supervises all of Blakely’s visits with the tiger cubs. Blakely is there to teach the tiger cubs what humans cannot.
“My team can feed and care for the tiger cubs, but we can’t teach them the difference between a play bite and one that means ‘watch out’. So, that’s Blakely’s job,” Strasser said in a statement. “Just a little time with him at this early age will help them learn behaviors that will come in handy when they meet tigers at other zoos in the future.”
The zoo plans to move the tiger cubs to the Zoo’s Cat Canyon this summer after they have received their final immunizations.