Blakely, an Australian Shepherd, has stepped in to help after a mother cheetah died shortly after giving birth at Cincinnati Zoo in Ohio this month. Five-year-old Willow sadly passed away following a c-section, leaving behind five tiny premature cubs.
The cubs, three males and two females, are now being keep warm and comforted by Blakely, who is a designated zoo nursery companion.
“His first job is to let the cubs climb on him, which they did as soon as they were put together," head nursery keeper Dawn Strasser said. "They need the exercise to build muscle tone and get their guts moving."
Blakely's role is of vital importance; it's estimated that only around 9000 - 12,000 cheetahs now exist in the wild, down from 100,000 in 1900.
Thane Maynard, Director of the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden said: “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.”
All photographs via Twitter/@CincinnatiZoo