Zookeepers were forced to pair an endangered leopard cub with a golden retriever foster parent because its own mother was a cannibal who had eaten three of her other babies.
The Sadgorod Zoo in Vladivostok, Russia, put the newborn leopard cub with a golden retriever named Tessa, even though she already had four puppies of her own.
Now, Milasha the leopard cub seems to love canines and is best friends with Elza the Central Asian Shepherd dog.
Milasha seems to be infatuated with her doggy pal Elza. Her trainer, Viktor Agafonov, said that the leopard is comfortable around the canine because golden retriever Tessa was raising her.
The leopard cub was paired with a lioness, a tigress, and her new best pal Elza.
The zookeepers decided to put the animals together because Milasha needed animals to play with who were of a similar size and her species is critically endangered.
Mr Aganfonov told CCTV+: ‘Although it seems these are both big cats, their behavior is completely different. The tigress is quieter. But the lioness … most of the time she keeps jogging and playing.’
The zoo described the fluffy white dog as having a ‘good pedigree, good blood,’ and its size and temperament make it a good match for the cubs.
Now, the furry foursome will spend at least the next year and a half together and their friendship could continue, depending on how much they like each other.
Cross-fostering sees baby animals separated from their birth parents and raised by surrogates.
It is a fairly common practice, usually done when the animal’s parents reject it or if they are killed.
The Sadogorod Zoo decided to put Milasha the leopard cub with the golden retriever because of concerns for her safety.
Leopardess Alain, Milasha’s mother, is though to have eaten her last three litters.
Mr Aganfonov said: ‘We can’t say for sure why this happened. But we decided not to risk another baby.’
Mothers in the animal kingdom are known to eat their young if the babies are sick or deformed.
They also sometimes eat them if there’s not enough food to go around or if they have died.