MOSCOW (AFP) - A goat sent to a Russian safari park as live prey for a Siberian tiger has instead befriended the big cat and the two have become inseparable in a story that has captivated Russians.
Amur the tiger and Timur the goat now sleep in the same enclosure in the Primorsky safari park outside the Pacific port city of Vladivostok, and the pair eat and play together in the snow and this week even head-butted each other for fun.
The story of the unusual friendship has touched hearts in Russia with the safari park releasing regular updates on the pair and planning to install webcams in their enclosure.
Staff at the park say the male tiger, who has been given live animals to hunt and eat twice a week for three years, did not touch the billy goat when it entered the enclosure last month because the goat did not show any fear.
"No one had taught the goat to be afraid of tigers," the park said in a statement.
Zoo chief Dmitry Mezentsev, who studies tigers and leopards, described the unlikely bromance as nothing short of a miracle.
"This is a sign from above," Mezentsev told AFP on Thursday.
"People, take a look at yourselves. There are wars everywhere - Ukraine, Syria. While such different animals can live together in peace." Mezentsev said the staff realised the tiger would not touch the goat after the two had spent three days together.
Timur now sleeps inside the shelter where Amur previously slept, while the tiger spends the night on its roof.
They meet up in the morning to walk around the spacious enclosure, with the goat usually following the tiger. Over the past few days they have begun playing together and chasing each other.
On Wednesday, Timur challenged Amur, poking him with his horns.
"The tiger accepted the goat's challenge," the safari park said.
"He pushed his forehead against Timur's horns, the friends butted heads for five seconds without coming to blows, after which Amur calmly went to bask in the sun on the hill." The tiger has also attempted to teach the goat how to catch prey and has recently taken a great interest in a block of salt given to Timur.
Amur is now being fed live rabbits for lunch, "out of respect for goats," said Mezentsev.