Scientists exploring the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania stumbled upon a remarkable sight – a lioness had adopted a newborn leopard cub as her own. This is not the first time something like this has been seen, as there was a similar occurrence in the Gir National Park in India, where a lioness cared for a young male cub that was not her own. The researchers were flabbergasted by this unusual behaviour, which they described as “bizarre” in their publication in the journal Ecosphere. This type of inter-species fostering needs to be better understood from an evolutionary perspective and is a rare and fascinating phenomenon.
Caring for the young ones, providing them with food and ensuring their safety is time-consuming and energy-draining. This type of behaviour, where an animal takes care of offspring that are not biologically theirs, is not uncommon. The reason behind this is that it helps in increasing the reproductive success of the individual. A recent study showed that such actions directly boost the chance of the animal passing on its genes. An excellent example of this is female cheetahs who adopt orphaned male cubs. Once the cubs grow up, they form strong alliances with the mother’s children. This behaviour helps promote the animal’s genes and increase its chances of survival.
Image Credit & More Info; panthera.org
Adopting offspring from another species is highly unusual in the animal kingdom. It is even rare for animals that are competitors to embrace each other’s young. However, in a rare instance, a wild lioness named Nosikitok discovered a solitary Leopard cub near her den where located her cubs. The Leopard cub was almost the same age as her cubs, and she took it upon herself to adopt it. This is a remarkable display of interspecies adoption and highlights the compassionate nature of wild animals, even among competitors.
The lioness fiercely guards her cub by keeping it close at all times. Despite this, there were rumours that the lioness’s cubs had perished due to their prolonged absence. Despite this, it is known that lions occasionally share the responsibility of raising each other’s cubs. However, it is also true that adult lions and other large feline species may attack and kill cubs from different litters. Nevertheless, such instances are considered to be quite rare.
Specialists believe the best outcome would be if the leopard could return to its mother, as it is uncertain how the Nosikitok pride would respond to a new addition.
Will the lioness raise the baby leopard? No one knows, but we hope she takes care of it until it grows.
Dr. Luke Hunter, the head of the conservation group, finds this situation rare and exciting to observe.