Monday, 20 November, 2017

'Truly Unique:' Lion Seen Nursing Baby Leopard For The First Time

Photos: Wild Lion Adopts Leopard Cub, an Unprecedented Sight 'It's unprecedented': Lion nursing baby leopard captured on camera
Freda Brock | 14 July, 2017, 20:52

Interspecies suckling has been documented among captive animals, and on very rare occasions wild carnivores such as leopards and pumas have been known to adopt an orphaned cub of their own kind, usually one that is related.

"There is no other recorded case where a big cat in the wild has suckled a cub belonging to another species", Luke Hunter, president of Panthera, a wild cat conservation group, told Reuters in a telephone interview.

The lactating lion, fitted with a Global Positioning System collar so that researchers can track her, may have lost her own cubs and therefore was open to feeding the leopard cub, Jansson said.

Nosikitok was found with the little cub around a kilometre from her den where her own cubs were hidden in Ndutu Safari Lodge in Tanzania's Ngorongoro Conservation Area. "We never see this in the wild".

Because Nosikitok had recently given birth to her own cubs Dr Hunter said she would be "absolutely awash with maternal hormones and that instinct to take care of her own babies".

The lioness was about a kilometer from her den where her own cubs were. Both species produce similar milk and undergo comparable nursing periods.

"This is all speculation, and I'm hoping for the best", he said. Right now, the only photos we have show the lioness nursing the leopard out in the open. "I know of no other case - between any large cat, for that matter - where the species has adopted or nursed the cub of another species", Hunter said.

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Dr Hunter said: "Lions have very rich, complicated social relationships in which they recognise individuals - by sight and by roars - and so they are very well equipped to distinguish their cubs from others". Female lions go off on their own to give birth, but then return to the group when the cubs are around six to eight weeks of age.

Moreover, the leopard cub needs to be accepted by the lion pride.

If the leopard survives long enough to be brought back to the pride, it will be just two months old-still much too young to survive on its own.

If the leopard cub is left alone to survive, things will be equally hard for it. Normally, leopard cubs remain with their mother for 12 to 14 weeks after their birth.

But even with the best adoptive mother in the world, it might require a bit of a miracle for this story to end on a note as adorable as it began.

In this Tuesday, July 11, 2017 photo supplied by Joop van der Linde, a leopard cub walks away after suckling on a 5-year-old lioness in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in Tanzania.

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