Researchers in Serengeti National Park in Tanzania came across a lioness who seemed to have adopted a newborn leopard.
This is an incident similar to the one at the Gir National Park in India where, a small male cub, about 2 months old, had a lioness’ nursing, fed from her prey that has been killed by the lioness and played with her two own cubs, about the same age as the leopard on December 2018. The researchers have been thoroughly confused by this uncommon incidence of inter-species fostering, which is described in the journal Ecosphere as “bizarre.” The care for the babies of another animal from an evolutionary point of view makes little sense.
Taking care of the young, collecting food for them, and keeping them safe will take a lot of time and energy and is often done to promote one’s own genes. These types of situations where an animal is caring for non-biological descendants of the same kind are not rare but “these actions help directly increase the reproductive success of the person who does this,” the study’s authors said. For example, female cheetahs adopt orphaned male cubs, who form broad coalitions with the mother’s own children once they reach adulthood
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Adoption among species is very rare but adopting an offspring from a competitor animal almost never happens. The wild lioness named Nosikitok has found the solitary kitchen near the den where her cubs are, and they are almost the same age when it happens.
The lioness protects the cub as if it is her own, by keeping it close to her. The cubs of the lioness are believed to be dead since they were not seen for a long time. Lions are known to feed each other’s cubs, however, adults and cubs from other large cat species are also known to kill. This is probably a very rare incident.
Experts consider that the ideal result would be if the leopard could find a way back to his own mother, as he is not sure how the pride of Nosikitok could react to the newcomer.
“It is probable that she has come into contact with this leopard cub, which she adopted before her parental hormones shut off,” explains Sarah Durant, of the London Zoological Society.
Nobody knows Whether the lioness will adopt the newborn leopard full time. Let’s hope that this Lioness will take care of the baby leopard till it grows up.