This is one of those stories that unequivocally proves that our furry friends in the animal kingdom have hearts as big as our own. Under normal circumstances, lions and leopards are fierce competitors on the African plains. However, just because there are rules, doesn’t mean there aren’t exceptions…
Check it out per National Geographic:
African lions and leopards are not what you’d call friends. In fact, lions have a habit of killing leopards.
So it was quite surprising when a five-year-old lioness was seen nursing a weeks-old leopard cub in July in Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Conservation Area.
“It’s unprecedented,” says Luke Hunter, president and chief conservation officer for Panthera, a global wild cat nonprofit. “We never see this in the wild.”
Here’s more from Newsweek:
The photos were taken Tuesday by a guest at Ndutu Lodge in Tanzania. The leopard cub is estimated to be about 3 weeks old, and the lioness is 5; She bears a GPS collar and is monitored for scientific purposes by KopeLion, a Tanzanian conservation organization supported by Panthera. Known as “Nosikitok” in Maasai, the lioness gave birth to a litter of cubs in late June, and so the leopard is about the same age as her own young, Hunter explains.
It’s unknown how the leopard cub ended up with Nosikitok. But the lioness is “awash in maternal hormones,” and likely took the leopard cub to be one of her own, Hunter says. At the time of the photo, the cubs were stashed back at her den site.
What will become of this interspecies adoption? Since it’s an unprecedented sighting, nobody knows for sure. Hunter explains that even for lion cubs, early youth is difficult, and only half of these animals make it to 1 year of age. As lions grow out of being cubs, they go through a transitional period where they are recognized and taken in by the pride. But it seems unlikely that other lions wouldn’t recognize the leopard as being different, Hunter says.
He says he thinks the odds are against it making it to adulthood, but he’s holding out hope. “I’m speculating wildly, but if the cub makes it to 12 to 14 months, my guess is that instinct would kick in and that it would go off on its own” and eventually seek out other leopards, Hunter says. He doesn’t think it would stay with the pride and live life as a lion.
What’s the most remarkable
interspecies bond you’ve ever seen?