Unusual, but then that is what Blakely, the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden’s is most known for.
Blakely’s new role is one of helping to raise three female Malayan tiger cubs. They were orphaned after being they were born as their mother wanted nothing to do with them. Blakely, an Australian Shepard, is now the surrogate mother and resident companion of the three and provides motherly snuggle and cuddle sessions for the baby tiger kittens.
So how does this work? Blakely is a guy. Nevertheless, “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.”
Blakely has a history of helping in unusual situations and has on previous occasions stepped up to the plate and helped out at the zoo as a companion. For example, Blakely helped “mother” five newborn cheetah cubs after the passing of their mother. Blakely has also participated in raising a baby calf, “an ocelot, a takin, a warthog, wallabies, skunks and bat-eared foxes.”
In honor of his service, the city of Cincinnati even declared October 19 to be “Blakely Day.” It is a great way to remind all who attend the zoo of the hard work this dog has contributed.
As you would expect, he zoo staff supervises all of Blakely’s sessions with the tiger cubs. But clearly, Blakely is able 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.”
Currently, the zoo plans to move the tiger cubs to the Zoo’s Cat Canyon this summer. This will take place soon after they have received their final immunizations.
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