This dog has acted as the tiger cubs' father since their mom abandoned them.
Just as it happens in humans, it happens with moms in the wild: some just don’t seem to take a liking to their children or their motherly instincts don’t kick in. For moms in the wild, however, they don’t think twice about leaving behind their newborns and pursuing a different life.
Luckily, the three tiger cubs that a mom from the Cincinnati Zoo abandoned were still in the care of zookeepers when it became clear that the mom had no intention of actually performing her motherly duties. Though the keepers have been watching over the three girls, they knew that they can’t stand in as their parental figures and turned to Blakely, a resident Australian Shepherd, to get the job done.
“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,” said Dawn Strasser, head of Cincinnati Zoo’s nursery staff.
Blakely is no stranger to fathering baby animals that aren’t his, and his loving but authoritative attitude are what make him such a great dad. Strasser says that Blakely acts as the “adult in the room” because he is the one that referees the cubs when they get too aggressive and makes sure they are behaving appropriately. On top of being their role model, Blakely is also very cuddly and patient, allowing the clumsy cubs to climb all over him.
“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,” said Strasser.
This isn’t the first time that Blakely has been employed as a wild animal dad, and he has helped raise baby cheetahs, wallabies, bat-eared foxes, and an ocelot, among other young animals. His fatherly instinct knows no bounds, and the zoo where he lives is extremely grateful for his efforts. On October 19th of last year, the Cincinnati Zoo even dubbed the day as ‘Blakely Day’ to commemorate him and celebrate the great work that he has done.
Since the cubs were barely born on February 3rd of this year, they’ll be with Blakely for awhile before being integrated with the other big cats at the zoo. The zoo has announced plans to introduce them into Cat Canyon to be with the other tigers following their last rounds of immunizations in the summer.
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