Unusual animals couples usually take the internet by storm, but the Metro Richmond Zoo in Virginia has made a huge success of their own odd couple, Kumbali the cheetah and Kago the dog.
Kumbali and Kago were initally introduced in 2015 after the little cheetah was rejected by his family. Born right at the zoo, he had lost weight and was hand reared by the keepers, who fed him with a bottle and kept him warm in an incubator. As he became older, he started to show signs of anxiety and was given a companion: Kago.
A Labrador-mix, whose name is Kago, was rescued from a high-kill shelter in Alabama when he was 10 weeks old and, after a short stint in quarantine, allowed to meet his brand new friend in the home of one of the keepers. The two of them clicked immediately and have been inseparable ever since.
Their beautiful friendship certainly caught the hearts of the internet after a video of them was uploaded to the zoo’s YouTube channel and they gained in upwards of millions of fans from around the world. Since that time, they have featured in other videos and can be seen playing together in their shared enclosure by visitors.
You might be thinking that it’s unusual for dogs and cheetahs to be paired together, however, zoos have been using this method to help the anxiety-prone cats for over 30 years. Cheetahs are naturally social animals and males, like Kumbali, will usually form groups with each other in the wild after leaving their mothers.
In captivity, when a cub is rejected and left to fend for itself, zoos have to find other animals to be their companions. Dogs are ideal for this situation as they are comfortable around humans and can show the more cautious cheetah that they can trust their keeper friends.
As the zoo goes on to say on their webpage about the pairing:
“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”.
Kumbali and Kago’s tale is one of true friendship, showing one and all that love knows no boundary, even for dogs and cats!