They’re cute and cuddly and the best of friends.
Kumbali the cheetah and Labrador puppy Kago have everyone watching at the Richmond Zoo in Virginia.
They’ve had everyone watching, including a group of women who call themselves “Cheetah Moms.” They come all decked out in cheetah gear.
"See, when we're not here, we're glued to the cheetah cam,” said Linda Cooper, Cheetah Moms.
"I would be willing to let Kumbali climb my leg, said Blanch Castelow, Cheetah Moms. “He's such a sweet innocent looking face.”
Kumbali’s keepers said don’t let the cuteness fool you. The claws are still razor sharp.
But they don’t seem to bother Kago.
The two became friends, according to the zoo, after Kimbali had to be hand-fed. The cub’s mother wasn’t producing enough milk.
"You know, when we pulled Kumbali, he was just two weeks old,” said Jim Andelin, Richmond Zoo. “He was just a little guy and we had to keep him in an incubator to regulate his body temperature and feed him every two hours throughout the night."
Unlike other big cats, Andelin said cheetahs are more prone to flee from something rather than fight. Because Kumbali could not be reintroduced to his family, Kago was brought in and became the perfect companion.
"They've picked up each other's traits,” Andelin said. “They're never separate. They'll explore at different times by themselves, but never with the other too far away."
Pairing puppies and cheetah cubs is a practice that’s gone on over 30 years. Andelin said time will tell if the pair stays together as they get older.
For now, zoo visitors can’t seem to get enough.
"Oh my gosh, it's amazing,” said Tamera Wilkins Harris, a zoo visitor. “I just can't believe we have an opportunity to have an animal like this in the Richmond region that we have a chance to get up close and personal with. It's awesome!"
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