Cats are positive additions to families for many reasons. They can be great companions when they’re not being aloof and surveying your (their) kingdoms, and they can keep unwanted rodent populations down.
If you’re Safari Park Dvůr Králové in the Czech Republic, cats are also great friends for rhinos. While it doesn’t seem like these two kinds of critters could have much in common, there is video proof of the opposite.
Oliver Le Que works at the zoo and told Liftable, a section of The Western Journal, all about their black rhino “barn cats.”
It all started when one of the keepers, Jan Žďárek, whom Le Que refers to as “our beloved friend and best rhino caretaker,” had an idea. Žďárek brought in the first cat two decades ago for two purposes.
“Jan Žďárek’s idea was to use cats to avoid mice, squirrels, and rabbits + as an enrichment tool for the rhinos as well,” Le Que told Liftable in an email.
They started out with a cat named “cat” — or “Kočka” in Czech. More were added eventually, and Le Que was careful to note that all of them had been saved and all of them were black.
He also said that there’s a joke about the cats matching the rhinos, as Žďárek likes to say, “You cannot breed black rhinos without black cats!”
Admittedly, the cats were a little leery of the large beasts at first, but as time passed, one of the cats took a special shine to its black rhino roommates.
Džinks the cat went out of his way to hang out with his rhino pals. Now 12 years old, he patrols the barns alongside Mia and Tily, ages 10 and 5, respectively.
Mia is the cat who’s been touching hearts in videos circulating online. The clips show her cozying up to a rhino, seemingly fearless as she wraps her silky body around the rhino’s jowls and rubs against its leathery face, kneading the straw bedding with her paws in utter delight.
Viewers can quickly see that the sleek black cat has a unique feature: She’s missing part of her tail.
Le Que told Liftable the story behind Mia’s accidentally bobbed tail, and the fact that she loves these rhinos so much becomes even more amazing.
“The video of Mia cuddling with our 1.5 years old black rhino has a beautiful story because she has her tail bitten off by the rhino named Jasiri,” Le Que said.
“Mia was never afraid of those rhinos, she was actually bitten by Jasiri´s mother named Jola before, but persists and she still loves them all!” he continued.
“Mia spends a lot of time with almost all of those rhinos lately, but mostly with Emilka.”
Photographer Ami Vitale added, “Mia and Emilka look forward to seeing each other everyday. It’s beyond sweet.”
Many people have remarked that Mia’s story is a wonderful example of forgiveness, as she hasn’t let her bad experience make her bitter or standoffish with her large rhino friends.
Jasiri’s misstep hasn’t completely scared off the cats, either, and the safari park recently posted a photo of Džinks getting cozy with her — to all appearances, she has been forgiven.
Whether or not cats will be in Jasiri’s future is unknown, as she is about to embark on the journey of a lifetime.
“Jasiri is one of five rhinos which is going to Africa with her 4 pals next month,” Le Que explained.
“It is going to be the largest transportation of rhinos from Europe to Africa ever and they are going to the largest national in Rwanda — Akagera.”
The only known remaining Northern White rhinos are two females that were bred at the zoo and are currently residing in Kenya, at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy.
Hopefully these cute cat and rhino friends will warm hearts as well as bring awareness to the issues rhinos are currently facing.
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