United by Friendship: Baby Tiger Cubs, Kangaroo Joey, and Apes Grow Up Together in Florida

In a unique demonstration of interspecies camaraderie, a Florida zoo has become home to an unlikely group of playmates: baby apes, tiger cubs, and a kangaroo joey.

Despite being different species, these little animals have forged bonds akin to siblings in a human family.

The tiny residents at Dade City’s Wild Things Zoo engage in playful activities like tug of war and vie for the affection of their caregiver, Kathy Stearns.

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Kathy is a nurturing figure to the group, bottle-feeding them and looking after their needs, from playful moods to diaper changes.

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At Dade City’s Wild Things in Florida, a group of baby tiger cubs, gibbons, and a giraffe (all pictured here with caretaker Kathy Stearns and a goat) have become as close as siblings.

Speaking to Barcroft TV, Kathy shared her insights on the dynamics of their interactions. “Their moments of joy, bouts of jealousy, and their capacity to love – it’s all a part of their development,” she said.

Interestingly, as Kathy provides all their necessities, including food, the animals don’t see the need to compete with each other for resources.

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As a result, they grow up not learning hunting skills but focusing on developing social skills.

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The baby BFFs play and fight together like any group of brothers and sisters would. Pictured here, one baby cup gets fed as 8-month-old Joey Whelan and one-year-old Sarah suck on their big toes.

“One of the benefits of raising multiple species together is the opportunity for them to develop social skills.

These skills are necessary for their enrichment when they eventually move to the zoo,” Kathy explained.

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However, as the tiger cubs grow, their playful antics may pose a danger due to their increased size and strength.

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Since the only thing these babies have to fight for is Kathy’s attention – rather than food – it’s not dangerous to let them be playmates when they’re young.
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And by allowing the babies to interact with each other, Kathy said they are developing the social skills to entertain and enrich themselves when they are transferred to the zoo.
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The group, which includes 8-month-old kangaroo Joey Whelan, gibbons Sarah and Jeremiah, and a few weeks-old tiger cubs, seem content in each other’s presence.

Kathy also shared her hopes for Sarah and Jeremiah’s future gibbons: “I hope as they mature, Sarah and Jeremiah will breed.

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It’s essential to preserve their genetics in captivity considering the critical endangerment of gibbons and tigers,” she said.

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They won’t be able to play with each other when they’re older, and the tiger’s playful pounces and jumps will be much more dangerous with an increase in size.
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But for now, the youngsters are happy in each other’s company. Kathy said Gibbon Sarah is especially curious about the newborn cubs.

This heartwarming tale of interspecies friendship unfolding in a zoo emphasizes the importance of social bonds in developing and conserving these beautiful creatures.

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Kathy acts as the babies’ adoptive mother. She changes their diapers and bottle-feeds them every day.
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Kathy said raising animals in captivity is vastly different from the wild, where their whole focus is ‘defending territory, hunting and killing.’
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‘In the zoo, they’ll have all these smells and characters,’ she said. That’s why Kathy believes it’s a good idea to get these animals together when they’re young, becoming social with different species of all shapes, stripes, and sizes.

Read more Wildlife News.

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