Animals in the Gir National Park, Gujarat, India will sometimes adopt animals from a different species. However, it was unusual for a lioness to adopt a leopard cub.
In the Gir National Park, lions and leopards do not get along, according to Stotra Chakrabarti, a researcher at the park. There is competition between leopards and lions for space and food. One particular lioness did a very unusual thing by adopting a leopard cub. The cub was only two months old and fuzzy with blue eyes. The lioness spent weeks caring for him and treated him as she did her own two sons, who were almost the same age. His new siblings were very welcoming. They played with the leopard and sometimes they followed him places including up trees. “It looked like two big cubs and one tiny runt in the litter,” stated Dr. Chakrabarti. “This adoption in the wild was a rare case of cross-species, adoption and also the only documented example involving animals that are strong competitors,” Dr. Chakrabarti said. The researchers detailed this case in the ecology journal Ecosphere.
According to Dr. Chakrabarti, unlike their counterparts in Africa, Asiatic lions live in groups with members of their own sex. After birth, lionesses usually separate from the group for a while so they can care for their babies on their own. If they had interacted with other families, the leopard might have been identified as an outsider.
Forty-five days later, the research team found the cub, dead, near a watering hole. A medical examination revealed that he most likely died of femoral hernia he had at birth. Dr. Chakrabarti said. “It would have been wonderful to see that cub grow with his new family, how things could’ve been. This mother lioness, those commonalities may have overridden the cub’s leopard-like features - his smell, size, and speckled appearance. He just blended in,” Dr. Chakrabarti said.
This is one of only a few reported cases of a mother adopting a baby of a different species.
[Source: The New York Times]