Check out this adorable picture of a wild lioness nursing a tiny leopard cub!
The pair was spotted in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in Tanzania, and captured on film by a guest at the Ndutu Safari Lodge, which operates in the Ngorongoro crater.
The lioness is around 5 years old and was feeding a cute leopard cub that looked to be only about a few weeks old.
How the two came together is still uncertain but researchers have suggested that the lioness may have recently lost cubs of her own, which were probably the same size as the leopard cub that she spotted.
The lioness, named as Nosikitok, is radio-tracked by the conservation group KopeLion. The team says that she recently had two cubs who may have died, although they are still unsure. Luckily enough, Nosikitok came across the tiny leopard cub that’s most likely the same age and size as her own cubs. And sure enough, her mothering instincts took over and she proceeded to nurse the cub.
According to the President and Chief Conservation Officer of Panthera, Dr. Luke Hun, this interaction is very much unique.
“I know of no other example of inter-species adoption or nursing like this among big cats in the wild. This lioness is known to have recently given birth to her own cubs, which is a critical factor. She is physiologically primed to take care of baby cats, and the little leopard fits the bill – it is almost exactly the age of her own cubs and physically very similar to them.”
Unfortunately, this could be mean bad news for the leopard cub when it grows up. Ever since, lions and leopards have been known to be great adversaries, with lions being big threats to leopards when they’re out and about in the wild.
Researchers suspect that the leopard cub could be in hot water if it survives, since it will probably not go along well with the other members of the lioness’ pride. The team sadly suspects it to get killed by the other lions.