“He’s more than just a large, warm pillow for the cubs. Blakely is the adult in the room," says Dawn Strasser, head of Cincinnati Zoo’s nursery staff. "He teaches them proper tiger etiquette by checking them when they’re getting too rough or aggressive. This is something that their human surrogates can’t do.”
Blakely's baby-rearing resume includes cheetahs, an ocelot, a takin, a warthog, wallabies, skunks and bat-eared foxes. Last year, to recognize Blakely’s nurturing nature, the City of Cincinnati proclaimed Oct. 19 Blakely Day.
“My team can feed and care for the tiger cubs, but we can’t teach them the difference between a play bite and one that means ‘watch out’. So, that’s Blakely’s job,” said Strasser. “Just a little time with him at this early age will help them learn behaviors that will come in handy when they meet tigers at other zoos in the future.”
The cubs are named Chira (because she was treated by a chiropractor), Batari (which means goddess) and Izzy (which means promised by God). They will move to the Zoo’s Cat Canyon this summer after they have received their last round of immunizations.
Visitors can catch a glimpse of them with Blakely through the nursery suite windows for the next few weeks.