By James Titcomb
When a rare Siberian tiger gave birth to two baby cubs at a zoo in Sochi, Russia, keepers were overjoyed.
However, when the cubs' mother refused to feed them, an unusual candidate stepped forward.
The two cubs were adopted by the most unlikeliest of nannies - a Shar-Pei dog called Cleopatra - who now breastfeeds and cleans the tigers, Clyopa and Plyusha.
Special bond: Cleopatra the Shar Pei feeds her two adoptive children. When the two cubs' mother refused to feed them Cleopatra took over mothering duties and is now giving them all her attention, zoo workers have said
Playful: Siberian tiger cub Plyusha gets the better of Shar-Pei puppy Fighter in the house in Socha, Russia
Luckily, Cleopatra had just had a litter of puppies herself, and freely accepted the cubs as her own.
Now the cubs live with Cleopatra, her puppies, and a cat called Masyanya at a house in Sochi, western Russia, where they are taken care of by owner Yekaterina Khodakova.
The cubs are fed by their adoptive mother and play and lie around the house just like regular cats.
They even play fight with their new siblings, as these adorable pictures show.
The cubs were born in late May in a zoo at the Oktyabrsky health resort in the Black Sea resort of Sochi.
Watch out: Clyopa stalks past 18-month-old baby Gleb, who shares the house with dogs, cats and tigers
Tussle: Clyopa battles with cat Masyanya. The month-old cubs have been welcomed into the house
Get off me! Plyusha and adoptive sibling Fighter playfight in the house of Yekaterina Khodakova
Zoo assistant director Viktoria Kudlayeva said the dog immediately gave the cubs all her attention.
‘She accepted them right away,’ Kudlayeva said. ‘She's cleaning them and breast feeding them as if they were her own. And they also sleep together.’
Kudlayeva said that the cubs pose no danger to the dog even though they are already showing their claws and hissing.
‘They aren't aggressive and they depend on her for feeding,’ she said.
Fewer than 400 Siberian tigers - also known as Ussuri, Amur or Manchurian tigers - have survived in the wild, most of them in Russia's Far East.
New mother Cleopatra feeds Clyopa. The dog has mothered the tiger cubs since their mother abandoned them
Caring: Yekaterina Khodakova looks after the menagerie of pets, as well as her 18-month-old son Gleb
Friday, July 6, 2012
By James Titcomb