When a cheetah mama didn’t take to her sole surviving baby, a special dog came into the cub’s life to show her the ropes.
Named Kris, the cheetah was the only survivor to first-time mom Neena this July at Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden’s breeding facility.
“When a cheetah mom has only one or two cubs survive in her litter, often she will abandon those cubs and even stop producing milk for them,” says Andie Haugen, from the Cincinnati Zoo’s Cat Ambassador Program.“This allows her to be able to breed again and have better luck next time in having a larger litter to survive.”
While zookeepers could help with nutrition and medical care, they could not provide a role model to help navigate the world.
This is where Remus, a rescue dog, comes in.
From the Animal Rescue Fund in Amelia, Ohio, the German Shepherd mix had the perfect personality for Kris – playful, outgoing and sweet.
Remus’ main task is to play with Kris and to “simply having a surrogate ‘sibling’ to grow up with and experience the world together,” says Haugen.
But the connection was not instantaneous.
“We gradually did introductions of the two. It did take a few weeks for the two to be playing freely as they got to learn each other’s personality, body language and eventually become friends,” she says. “Now they play all the time!”
Remus will stay with Kris until she is fully ready to be an ambassador to the zoo, educating visitors on cheetahs.
The zoo is helping build up the cheetah population, which has shrunk from 100,000 in 1900 to between 9,000 to 12,000 today.