Blakely is a valuable member of the staff at the Cincinnati zoo.
His official title is “Resident Nursery Companion.” Last year 6-year-old Blakely took over the care of five orphan cheetah cubs whose mother had died. Last summer he mentored Dale the takin, a baby goat-antelope, who was rejected by his mother after he had trouble learning how to walk. Recently he was assigned three rare Malayan tiger cubs after their mother ignored them.
His babysitting rèsumè includes cheetahs, an ocelot, a warthog, wallabies, skunks and bat-eared foxes.
Blakely has been trained to help the babies socialize by becoming a surrogate mother. Humans can weigh them, clean them, and bottle feed them but they are not very good at snuggling, comforting and providing a body to cling to.
Blakely also teaches them proper animal etiquette by not letting them get too rough or aggressive. They learn from him the difference between play biting and serious fighting. In other words he is the adult in the room who provides comfort and keeps order in the litter. Sort of a 4-legged Mary Poppins.
Last year, to recognize Blakely’s nurturing nature, the City of Cincinnati proclaimed Oct. 19 Blakely Day.