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Lioness Adopts And Nurses Orphaned Baby Leopard After Losing Her Cubs

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:

As well as nursing her adopted baby, five-year-old mother Nosikitok has three small cubs of her own to feed who were born around the 27 - 28 June

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”.

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

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.”

Because Nosikitok had recently given birth to her own cubs Dr Hunter said she would be 'absolutely awash with maternal hormones and that instinct to take care of her own babies'

“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 not clear exactly why these animals choose to do this but experts believe it might be something to do with hormone levels

‘It’s a unique thing, it will be fascinating to see how it unfolds’, said Dr Hunter.

RELATED: Lion Climbed Onto Bus Full Of People Seeking Cuddles And Attention (Video)

Written by Joe Kahlo

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