Animals | February 13, 2023 2:52 AM | hangbony
Photographs released from a Tazaia wildlife area show a leopard cub suckling a lioness. Yes, you have read that right.
A truly unique sight:A 5-year-old lioness, fitted with a GPS collar so that researchers can track her, feeds a leopard cub in the Ngorogoro Conservation Area in Tanzania. Joop van der Lide/Ndt Safari Lodge photo courtesy of AP
The photographs were taken by a guide at a lodge in the Ngorogoro Conservation Area, a United Nations World Heritage Site, back in 2017. (Since another sighting of a leopard cub, which you can read about below,)
According to Igela Jasso, the head of the KopeLio coservatio group, the lactatig lio may have lost her ow cubs and was thus oped to feed the leopard cub.Meanwhile, the leopard appeared to have lost its mother.
“To see something like this is very unusual,” Jasso remarked, jokingly comparing the unusual occurrence of cross-species rsig to a case of “cofsio at the supermarket,” in which the lio “picked up the wrog kid.”
The lactating lioness might have misplaced her owes.Joop van der Lide/Ndt Safari Lodge photo courtesy of AP
Wild cats and other animals of the same species have been known to occasionally adopt and suckle cubs that aren’t their own, and some birds have also been observed feeding chicks of other species whose eggs were inadvertently laid in their nests. But this kind of cross-species breeding is extremely rare in the case of wild cats, according to a statement from Pathera, a wild cat conservation group based in New York.
“It’s really mysterios,” Lke Hter, Pathera’s president and chief consecratory officer, said of the few images at the time.According to him, it was unclear whether the leopard’s mother was still alive and could retrieve the cub from “leopard day care,” which would have been the best possible outcome.
The formal relationship lasted approximately one day.Joop van der Lide/Ndt Safari Lodge photo courtesy of AP
However, Hter cautioned that “the atral odds are stacked against this little fellow,” which may have partly been killed by other lions that recognized it wasn’t one of their own. He added that, even in “normal” circumstances, only 40 percent of lion cubs in the area, which is part of the Seregeti ecosystem, survive their first year.
Admittedly, the lion was seen frolicking with other lions the next day, but without any cubs.
Until last year, when a more amazing discovery was made in Gir National Park in Gjarat, Idia, where a lioness adopted… well, another leopard cub.In this case, however, the “special relationship” lasted much longer, according to the New York Times.
The cb was about 2-months-old and had fluffy ears and blue eyes—an adorable little fellow. The lioness spent six weeks rsig and feeding him, treating him as if he were one of her two sons of similar age.Despite all the care, however, the little leopard died some weeks later.
a lioness with her adopted leopard and biological sow in Gir National Park in Gjarat, Idia. Photo: Dheeraj Mittal
What makes the sal discovery even more intriguing is that the lions and leopards of Gir National Park do not normally interact.At all.
“They compete with each other” for space and food, said Stotra Chakrabarti, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Minnesota who studies animal behavior. “They are at perpetual odds.”
Dr. Chakrabarti and others detailed the case in the ecology journal “Ecosphere.” A conservation officer and a park ranger were among his fellow athors, who first spotted the sal family in late December 2018, hagig out to hear a freshly killed Ilgai antelope.
For six weeks to come, the team watched as the mother lion, her two cubs, and the leopard roamed Gir National Park. “The lioness took care of him like oe of her ow,” Dr. Chakrabarti said, rsig him and sharig the meat from her hts.
The spotty little fellow’s new friends were similarly welcome, playing with their new pal and occasionally following him up trees. One photo shows the leopard cub poking fun at the head of one of his adoptive brothers, who is almost twice his size and clearly a good sport. “It appeared to be two large cubs and one tail of the litter,” Dr. Chakrabarti explained.
At least three documented cases of interspecies adoption in the wild are involved in this case.Photo: Dheeraj Mittal
“It was simply the most ‘wow’ moment I’ve come across,” said Dr. Chakrabarti, Stdyig Gir’s lawyer for nearly two decades.His fellow researchers with the Asiatic Lion Conservation Project in India, some of whom have been watching the big cats for decades, “have also never seen anything like this,” he pointed out.
Like their coterparts in Africa, Asian lions live in small, sex-segregated groups, where lionesses often separate from the rest of the group for a few months after giving birth and then raise their offspring as their own. Had the makeshift family interacted more with other adopted families, the leopard could have been identified as an impostor, Dr. Chakrabarti posited.
The leopard cub was observed living with the lions for 6 weeks. Photo: Dheeraj Mittal
But they never knew what would have happened in such a situation because the leopard cub’s body was discovered in a watery hole after about 6 weeks.A field necropsy was made, revealing that he had most likely died because of a femoral hernia he had suffered since birth.
“It would have been fantastic to see how the leopard cub grew up and how things would be,” Dr. Chakrabarti said. “But it didn’t happen.”
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