‘Ex­tremely unique’

Lion nurses leop­ard cub in Tan­za­nia con­ser­va­tion area

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - WORLD - BY CHRISTO­PHER TORCHIA

Newly re­leased pho­to­graphs from a Tan­za­nian wildlife area show an in­cred­i­bly rare sight: a leop­ard cub suck­ling on a lion be­lieved to have given birth to a lit­ter last month.

The five-year-old lion lies un­per­turbed as the small leop­ard, es­ti­mated to be a few weeks old, nurses in the pho­to­graphs taken Tues­day by a guest at a lodge in the Ngoron­goro Con­ser­va­tion Area, a United Na­tions World Her­itage site.

“To ob­serve a thing like this is very un­usual,” said In­gela Jans­son, head of the KopeLion con­ser­va­tion group, which seeks to re­solve con­flict be­tween lions and lo­cal res­i­dents who hunt the preda­tors in or­der to pro­tect their live­stock.

The lac­tat­ing lion, fit­ted with a GPS col­lar so that re­searchers can track her, may have lost her own cubs and there­fore was open to feed­ing the leop­ard cub, Jans­son said. The leop­ard, mean­while, ap­peared to have lost con­tact with its mother, she said.

“Cross-species nurs­ing for wild cats, and other wildlife for that mat­ter, is ex­tremely unique,” ac­cord­ing to a state­ment from Pan­thera, a wild cat con­ser­va­tion group based in New York.

There have been cases of adop­tions and suck­ling among wild cats and other an­i­mals of the same species, as well as cases of birds feed­ing chicks of an­other species whose eggs were in­ad­ver­tently laid in their nests, ac­cord­ing to con­ser­va­tion­ists.

“It’s re­ally mys­te­ri­ous,” Luke Hunter, pres­i­dent and chief con­ser­va­tion of­fi­cer of Pan­thera, said of the new images.

He said it was un­clear whether the leop­ard’s mother was still around and could re­trieve the cub from “li­on­ess day care,” which would be the best pos­si­ble out­come. How­ever, Hunter cau­tioned that “the nat­u­ral odds are stacked against this lit­tle fel­low,” which may have since been killed by other lions that rec­og­nized it was not one of their own.

Even in nor­mal cir­cum­stances, only 40 per cent of lion cubs in the area, which is part of the Serengeti ecosys­tem, sur­vive their first year, Hunter said.

Known as Nosik­i­tok, the lion that fed the leop­ard was seen with other lions but with­out cubs of any kind on the day af­ter the pho­to­graphs were taken by Joop van der Linde, a guest at Ndutu Safari Lodge.

Jans­son of KopeLion jok­ingly de­scribed the ex­tra­or­di­nary lion-leop­ard cub nurs­ing as a case of “con­fu­sion at the su­per­mar­ket” in which the lion “picked up the wrong kid.”

JOOP VAN DER LINDE/NDUTU SAFARI LODGE VIA AP

In this 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. In the in­cred­i­bly rare sight, the small leop­ard, es­ti­mated to be a few weeks old, nurses in the pho­to­graphs taken this week by a guest at a lo­cal lodge.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.