Rare sight of lioness allowing leopard cub to suckle goes viral

Lion baby leopard

Lion baby leopard

In fact, lions have a habit of killing leopards.

In this Tuesday, July 11, 2017 photo supplied by Joop van der Linde, a leopard cub suckles on a 5-year-old lioness in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in Tanzania.

Luke Hunter, President and Chief Conservation Officer for Panthera, a global wild cat conservation organisation which supports Kope Lion, told the BBC the incident was "truly unique".

"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 NY.

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.

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. What's more, the lion cubs are nearly the same age as the leopard cub, according to KopeLion, the Tanzanian conservation nonprofit that has been tracking Nosikitok by radio-collar.

"It's a unique thing, it will be fascinating to see how it unfolds", said Dr Hunter. But these are not the only factors to consider. "This simply wouldn't have happened if she wasn't suckling her own babies", Hunter explained. "She's awash with maternal hormones, and this fierce, protective drive that all lionesses have, they're formidable mums", the lion expert noted. Right now, the only photos we have show the lioness nursing the leopard out in the open. Inter-species caring for wild cats is extremely rare, and between lions and leopards, it's the first time something like this has been observed - despite the very strong maternal instincts of lionesses.

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The study has also claimed that it may pose very serious risks to pregnant women and young children. The FDA is aware of phthalates in our food and considers them to be "indirect food additives".

Lion cubs face threats from hyenas and wildfires and their mortality rate in the first year is about 50 percent.

However, if that happens, the leopard would have to go through many challenges.

Moreover, the leopard cub needs to be accepted by the lion pride.

He said that the lioness has cubs of the same age as the leopard cub, who is between two to three weeks old. There is speculation that her babies may have already been killed by other predators and would explain why she allowed the cub to nurse from her.

If the leopard cub is left alone to survive, things will be equally hard for it. Normally, leopard cubs remain with their mother for 12 to 14 weeks after their birth.

Experts say it would be best if the leopard found its way back to its own mother as Nosikitok's pride might not be as welcoming to the new arrival.

"Lion females are incredibly devoted and diligent mothers", says Hunter.

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