Lions and leopards at the Gir National Park don’t usually get on.
“They compete with each other” for space and food, said Stotra Chakrabarti, a researcher who studies animal behaviour. “They are at perpetual odds.”
And until recently, this statement wouldn’t have been questioned. But one particular lion, against all odds, broke the barrier when she adopted a baby leopard.
This very rare case of interspecies adoption involves a sick baby leopard who was taken in by a lioness who cared for him as if he were her own.
Stotra explained that usually, these animals compete for space and food, however, unexpectedly, the lioness defied the rules and took pity on a sick two-month-old leopard cub.
The adorable young pup was nursed for weeks by the mother lioness, who did her best to feed and care for him until he, unfortunately, passed away,
The lioness even had two cubs of her own, regardless of this she treated the poor baby leopard as if he were one of the family.
Initially, observers believed that this association would only last a day or two, “but this went on,” Dr Chakrabarti said.
But this went on for a month and a half. “The lioness took care of him like one of her own,” nursing him and sharing meat that she hunted,” Dr Chakrabarti continued.
“His new siblings, too, were welcoming, playing with their spotty new pal and occasionally following him up trees. In one photo, the leopard pounces on the head of one of his adoptive brothers, who is almost twice his size and clearly a good sport.
It looked like two big cubs and one tiny runt of the litter.
The postdoctoral researcher, who has been studying the park’s lions for nearly seven years, said the adoption was ‘was surely the most ‘wow’ moment’ he’d witnessed.
Dr Chakrabarti reckons the lioness wouldn’t have been as welcoming to the baby leopard if theere were more adult lions around.
Sadly though, the who relationship was over after around a month and a half when the leopard’s body was found near a watering hole. After some investigation, it was revealed he most likely died because of a hernia he had since birth.
Chakrabarti commented on the disappointing turn of events, saying:
It would have been fantastic to see, when the leopard cub grew up, how things would be. But it didn’t happen.
What an amazing story!