Updated Aug. 15, 2019
The Cincinnati Zoo says its baby cheetah, "Kris," will soon have a new companion. In a tweet, the zoo says it has adopted a scruffy brown puppy to grow up with the cheetah cub.
The news means nanny dog "Blakely" is heading back to retirement. He was called back to duty shortly after Kris was born to help out as a surrogate parent and companion.
The new puppy doesn't have a name yet.
Future BFFs! A puppy companion for cheetah cub Kris has been adopted! They will be introduced after a short quarantine period. The puppy (name still TBD) will keep Kris company and help socialize the little sprinter. We can't wait to watch them grow up together! pic.twitter.com/l1MGQ2ciuZ
— Cincinnati Zoo (@CincinnatiZoo) August 15, 2019
An Australian Shepherd named "Blakely" is coming out of retirement to help keepers at the Cincinnati Zoo care for a newborn cheetah cub.
The cub, named "Kris" after a longtime supporter of the Cat Ambassador Program (CAP), is the lone survivor of a litter born on July 7 at the zoo's cheetah breeding center in Clermont County. First-time mom "Neena" is doing well but "cheetah moms do not receive enough stimulation from a single cub to produce an adequate milk supply," the zoo says.
That's where Blakely comes in. While zookeepers are providing nutrition and care, the dog serves as a surrogate parent.
"Blakely will teach the cub animal etiquette and handle some of the social responsibilities, like snuggling, playing and disciplining, that would typically be performed by a mother," says Dawn Strasser, head of Neonate Care.
"We put them together for the first time two days ago, and Blakely went into work mode," Strasser adds. "His nurturing and patience skills kicked in, and he sat still while the cub climbed on him and tried to figure out what to do with him."
Blakely retired in 2017. Prior to that, he helped rear several cheetahs, an ocelot, a takin, bat-eared foxes, an aardvark, a warthog, sibling wallabies, and a litter of Malayan tiger cubs, according to the zoo.
Zoo staff are searching for a puppy to become Kris's companion once she is ready to move from the Animal Health Center to the CAP facility in about a month or two. Blakely will go back into retirement and the puppy will grow up with Kris as a constant companion for one to two years.
"Cheetahs are endangered, and their population worldwide has shrunk from about 100,000 in 1900 to an estimated 9,000 to 12,000 cheetahs today," the zoo reports.