Zoos sometimes get criticized because they can be seen as imprisoning animals solely for human enjoyment. But what people may not realize is that many zoo animals are there because they wouldn't have been able to survive in the wild on their own, and human intervention is necessary for their survival.
For example, Kumbali is a cheetah cub at the Metro Richmond Zoo, and as a newborn, the cub was losing weight because its mother wasn't producing enough milk to feed her litter. Once Kumbali was cared for and brought back to health, his family rejected him, but the anxious cat, very social by nature, still needed a friend. That's where Kago, a companion dog, came in.
The lab mix puppy, which was given to the zoo by a shelter, and cheetah cub were apprehensive of each other at first, but as they started to feel each other out, they quickly became friends and are now growing up together, happy and healthy. In a post about the animal friends, the zoo notes that while this relationship isn't typically what you'd see in nature, it does more good than harm in this scenario:
This symbiotic relationship would never happen in the wild; however, we believe the positive outcomes outweigh any negative. As the two grow up together, they create a bond that becomes almost inseparable, sibling-like. They provide companionship for each other. The dog has a calming influence because the cheetah will take behavioral cues from the dog– learning not to fear his surroundings, but instead embracing them with confidence. The dog normally becomes the dominant figure in the relationship by becoming the protector and leader. The cheetah will not hurt or kill his friend.
The best part of the story: If you find yourself near Moseley, Virginia, you can check out Kumbali and Kago for yourself, since they're in the zoo during the day. Check out the video of their story above, and let us know if you're as *heart eyes emoji* over this as we are.
Featured image: Metro Richmond Zoo/YouTube