(ANIMAL FRIENDSHIP) An orphaned male cheetah was paired with a rescued Labrador retriever last year in the hopes that the two woud develop a beneficial, life-long friendship. Today, Kasi and Mtani are best friends. Read on to learn more about the two unlikely companions on their one-year anniversary. — Global Animal

The Huffington Post

Last March, Busch Gardens in Tampa received a 3-week-old orphaned male cheetah, which required around-the-clock care as a furry newborn.

And because male cheetahs form “coalitions,” strong brotherly bonds, with their siblings, the animal park sought out a life-long companion for the lonely cheetah cub.

They found a 6-week-old female Labrador retriever at a local shelter, who was bouncy, smart, playful, and patient — in other words, all the traits they thought would make a good cheetah best friend.

Photo credit: Busch Gardens

They spent time training the pup and soon introduced him to the little cheetah.

To name the pair, the Gardens held an online vote on Facebook. The nearly 3,000 voters named the cheetah Kasi, Swahili for “one with speed,” and the pup was named Mtani, meaning “close friend.”

“Everyone’s like ‘A cheetah and a dog? Does that make sense?’,” zoo manager Tim Smith said. “And actually it does. They both have similar behavioral patterns. They find each other socially very similar in the way that they interact with each other. “

For the first couple of months, the odd couple’s hangouts were completely supervised by Busch Gardens staff, who made sure that they were having “positive experiences with one another,” according to Smith.

The two friends, which are a real draw to Busch Gardens visitors, recently celebrated their one-year anniversary together.

More Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/19/kasi-mtani-baby-cheetah_n_1437704.html