Lioness Nurses a Baby Leopard
Mon, April 19, 2021

Lioness Nurses a Baby Leopard

 

Scientists have documented a lot of interspecies adoptions before. For instance, a group of capuchin monkeys in Brazil took in a baby marmoset in 2004. A decade later, a family of bottlenose dolphins adopted an infant melon-headed whale. A recent study published in the ecology journal Ecosphere documented another interspecies adoption: a lioness adopting an orphaned baby leopard. 

 

Photo Credits: All That’s Interesting

 

The recent documented interspecies adoption is more controversial than the rest because it occurs between animal populations that are strong competitors within the same environment such as the lions and leopards. Researcher Stotra Chakrabarti explained that these two have been fighting over food and territory across the Gir National Park in India. Chakrabarti and his team closely observed the relationship between the mother lioness and her adopted leopard cub for a month and a half. 

 

Photo Credits: All That’s Interesting

 

According to All That’s Interesting, a site for curious people who want to know more about what they see on the news or read in history books, the lioness nursed the baby leopard and fed it meat from her hunt. She cared for it and protected it along with her two biological lion cubs. The park authorities also reported that the lioness appeared productive of the baby leopard against other lions in the area. Meanwhile, her two biological offspring seemed to like their adopted sibling. They have seen running around and playing with each other. 

“It looked like two big cubs and one tiny runt of the litter,” Chakrabarti said.

 

Photo Credits: All That’s Interesting

 

The researchers explained that the baby leopard was able to seamlessly fit into the mother lion’s family because its behavior is the same as the baby lions, including the way they beg for milk. However, the team wasn’t able to know the reason behind the mother lion’s decision to adopt the baby leopard because it was found dead near a watering hole in the park. Findings showed that it had likely died due to a birth defect: a femoral hernia.

“It would have been fantastic to see, when the leopard cub grew up, how things would be. But it didn’t happen,” Chakrabarti said. 

 

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