Nursery Dog Nannies 5 Orphaned Cheetah Cubs

When five cheetah cubs at the Cincinnati zoo lost their mother, an unlikely surrogate stepped in to save the day.

Blakely, an Australian shepherd, began looking after the cubs when they were born via C-section. Their mother, a 5-year-old cheetah named Willow, died after the invasive procedure in early March.

“Cheetahs are a fragile species and this difficult birth proved to be too much for her to pull through,” said Thane Maynard, the zoo’s director. “Willow was able to contribute to the survival of her species by producing five cheetah cubs. Without the C-section, we likely would have lost both the mom and the cubs.”


As the cheetah cubs grow older, Blakely will be tasked with teaching them the social skills they would normally learn from their mother. “His first job is to let the cubs climb on him, which they did as soon as they were put together,” said Head Nursery Keeper Dawn Strasser.

This isn’t Blakely’s first time caring for babies that aren’t his own; he has been a surrogate for other newborns in the past, including a baby Takin named Dale.

To see Blakely in action with his 5 Cheetah cubs, visit the nursery at the Cincinnati Zoo!