CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- Friends come in all shapes and sizes, and in this case species. Cheetah cub Kumbali and lab mix puppy Kago are living examples at the Metro Richmond Zoo. The zoo released a series of photos and a video showing off and describing the unique companionship between the puppy and cheetah cub.
Kumbali, who was born in May, had a hard time gaining weight after birth, according to zoo officials. After zoo staff determine his mother was not producing enough milk to feed all her cubs, they decided to bottle-raise Kumbali.
"We then decided to continue hand-raising the baby, to ensure his health and growth. We instantly fell in love with him, but Kumbali was in need of a companion," zoo staff explained in a video.
That companion, zoo staff determined, would be Kago, a lab mix puppy adopted from a pet rescue organization when he was 10 weeks old.
"Kago and Kumbali were introduced to each other. After a thorough inspection and some uncertainty, the two quickly became pals," zoo staff detailed in the video. "Initially, they were raised together inside a zookeeper's home to provide close monitoring and care. As Kumbali and Kago grew older, they were moved to an outdoor enclosure."
Dogs have been used as companion animals for cheetahs in zoos for over 30 years, zoo staff explained.
"The dog provides a calming influence for the cheetah by giving him behavioral cues. Dogs are less fearful of new surroundings and embrace them with confidence," zoo staff said. "That calmness helps the cheetah remain calm as well. Their bond has become brother like and the two are inseparable."
Kumbali and Kago are on display at the Metro Richmond Zoo Monday through Thursday from noon to 1 p.m, Fridays and Saturdays from noon to 1 p.m. and again from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m.