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Blakely the Australian Shepherd Is the Surrogate Parent to Three Tiger Cubs

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On February 3, three rare Malayan tiger cubs were born at the Cincinnati Zoo. While their mother, sadly, did not take to her babies, the staff of the zoo was there to help take care of them.

One of those staff members is Blakely, an Australian Shepherd who works as a caretaker and nanny for those in the animal kingdom who need him most.

Blakely—who has aided in caring for cheetahs, ocelots, skunks, wallabies, foxes, and warthogs, among other creatures—is currently a surrogate parent to the cubs, named Izzy, Chira, and Batari.

Angela Hatke, the communications coordinator for the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, tells PawCulture that this 6-year-old “super dog” is not only a comforting, warm body and a playground for the cubs, but a teacher as well.

“He teaches the cubs proper tiger etiquette by checking them when they’re getting too rough or aggressive,” she says. “His job is to help them grow up into successful tigers! He will play with them, and also show them how to eat solid foods and even drink from a bowl.”

Blakely, whose efforts are so admired the city of Cincinnati had an entire day dedicated to him, will stay with the tigers in their nursery until they outgrow him over the next few weeks.

“Blakely is very smart,” Hatke says. “He knows he is ‘working’ when there are babies in the nursery. He has always been laid back and patient.”

Dawn Strasser, head of Cincinnati Zoo’s nursery staff, echoed that sentiment on the zoo’s website, saying, “My team can feed and care for the tiger cubs, but we can’t teach them the difference between a play bite and one that means ‘watch out.’ So, that’s Blakely’s job. Just a little time with him at this early age will help them learn behaviors that will come in handy when they meet tigers at other zoos in the future.”

The zoo says that the cubs will move to the Cat Canyon section of their park this summer after they have received their last round of immunizations.

Until then, you can watch the amazing Blakely play with, and care for the tiger cubs in the above video.

Image via Mark Dumont


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Aly Semigran is a lifestyle writer for the world and roommate of Ruby, the cutest dog in the world.