This is the incredible moment a lioness was seen feeding a baby leopard in the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania.
Lionesses would usually kill a baby leopard without hesitation as they are direct competition for food, yet here she is an attentive mother.
But wildlife experts say they have never seen this particular inter-species nursing before.
The wild lioness named Nosikitok found the lone cub close to the den where her cubs are, and as it turns out they are all around the same age.
It is suspected that the lionesses cubs have passed away as they had not been spotted for a little while, Ainslie Wilson, the Ndutu Safari Lodge manager says:
Up until that time her behaviour was indicating that she had cubs and the cubs had been seen in previous days’
“Since the incident, she’s been ranging far and wide and hasn’t been staying near to the den area.”
“This suggests her cubs have died although there’s no way to be sure”, she said.
No one is sure whether Nosikitok will adopt the baby leopard full time, as even the whereabouts of the cub’s mother is unknown.
Dr Sarah Durant, of the Zoological Society of London, says: “It is possible that she came into contact with this leopard cub and adopted it before her maternal hormones switched off.”
“Lions are known to suckle each other’s cubs, however, they are also known to kill adults and cubs of other big cat species. This is likely to be an extremely rare event”.
Dr Luke Hunter President and Chief Conservation Officer for global cat conservation organisation Panthera said:
“We know there are cases where lionesses will adopt other lion cubs… But this is unprecedented.”
“I know of no other case – between any large cat, for that matter – where the species has adopted or nursed the cub of another species.”
Experts reckon the best outcome would be if the leopard managed to find its way back to its own mother as it is unsure how Nosikitok’s pride might react to the newcomer.
‘It’s a unique thing, it will be fascinating to see how it unfolds’, said Dr Hunter.