A dog has become a surrogate dad to five cheetah cubs who lost their mom shortly after their birth.
On Tuesday, the Cincinnati Zoo said that the mother cheetah, Willow, had passed away after undergoing a rare Cesarean section two weeks ago. Following the surgery, five-year-old Willow had been lethargic and stopped eating over the last few days, the zoo said.
But all her babies survived.
So staff turned to Blakely, the zoo's resident nursery companion to all baby animals in need. The Australian shepherd dog has been providing non-stop snuggles to the recently orphaned cheetah cubs, who need to be bottle fed every three hours.
The patient pup allows the cubs - three males and two females - to clamber over him to help build their muscles.
"His first job is to let the cubs climb on him, which they did as soon as they were put together," explained Head Nursery Keeper Dawn Strasser, who supervises the climbing sessions. "They need the exercise to build muscle tone and get their guts moving."
As the cubs continue to grow, Blakely will act as a role model and show the cubs how to treat each other, the zoo said. They will remain together in the nursery for at least eight to 12 weeks.
This isn't the first time Blakely has stepped up to the role. Two years ago, he cared for another growing cub named Savanna and more recently, he helped rear a baby takin named Dale.