The Dallas Zoo is now home to two new adorable cheetah cubs and a black Labrador puppy that will be raised alongside them.
The 8-week-old cubs were born at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Va. Winspear, the larger of the two cubs, weighs more than 8 pounds, while Kamau is just 6 pounds.
The cats’ canine companion is also 8 weeks old. Named Amani — which means “peace” in Swahili — the puppy is meant to have a calming influence on the cubs. Dogs are naturally comfortable in public settings, so they’re often paired with cheetahs in captivity.
Winspear and Kamau will be part of the zoo’s Animal Adventures outreach program, which teaches the public about endangered animals and conservation efforts.
A century ago, there were 100,000 cheetahs in the wild, but today their numbers are estimated to be about 10,000.
“Winspear and Kamau will become important animal ambassadors for the Dallas Zoo, building appreciation and awareness about cheetahs to more than 900,000 visitors each year,” said Sean Green, vice president of guest experiences for the Dallas Zoo, in a press release.
Several other zoos have coupled cheetahs with dogs, including the San Diego Zoo, which has been pairing pups with big cats for years.
“A dominant dog is very helpful because cheetahs are quite shy instinctively, and you can’t breed that out of them,” said Janet Rose-Hinostroza, animal training supervisor at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. “When you pair them, the cheetah looks to the dog for cues and learns to model their behavior. It’s about getting them to read that calm, happy-go-lucky vibe from the dog.”
Watch Winspear and Kamau play in the video below.