Kumbali and Kago are besties (or is that beasties?) for life, even though one’s a zoo-born cheetah and the other’s a rescue dog.
The two live at the Metro Richmond Zoo in Virginia, where visitors can go and watch the remarkable pair play together.
“Kumbali and Kago will stay with each other for life, and will both become cheetah ambassadors,” zoo spokesman Justin Andelin said in an email.
According to the zoo, Kumbali, a male cheetah cub born in May, wasn’t getting enough nourishment from his mother and had to be hand-raised by zoo staff members. Estranged from his siblings, the cub needed a companion to play with and grow.
He also needed a “brother” to keep him calm.
Enter Kago, a yellow Labrador retriever mix, also born in May, who was rescued from an animal kill shelter in Alabama and later adopted by the zoo.
The video above shows their first meeting (OK, it didn’t go so great) and shows how the two have grown together. But will it last?
“They will grow up thinking of themselves as brothers,” Andelin writes. “So the threat [to Kago] is nil to extremely minimum.
“Male cheetahs in the wild form coalitions with their brothers and stay with them for life. Female cheetahs remain solitary until they have cubs, and a year later they are solitary again.”
Visitors can see Kumbali and Kago at the zoo from noon to 1 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 3 to 4 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
Their relationship isn’t as crazy as it sounds. The San Diego Zoo, for example, for decades has been pairing cheetah babies with dogs -- and you can see cheetahs walking around with their canine friends too.
“Cheetahs are quite a bit more cautious and wary of new situations,” the San Diego Zoo’s website says. “Having a dog buddy to show them that everything is OK — and even fun — helps the cat feel comfortable and relaxed.
“The dog’s body language communicates that there’s nothing to fear, which relaxes and calms the cheetah’s flight tendencies. We introduce a puppy buddy when the cheetah is still a cub and naturally playful. By spending time together, they get to know each other and become buddies.”
Info: Metro Richmond Zoo, 8300 Beaver Bridge Road, Moseley, Va.; (804) 739-5666