JOHANNESBURG – Newly released photographs from a Tanzanian wildlife area show an incredibly rare sight: a leopard cub suckling on a lion believed to have given birth to a litter last month.
The five-year-old lion lies unperturbed as the small leopard, estimated to be a few weeks old, nurses in the photographs taken Tuesday by a guest at a lodge in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, a United Nations World Heritage site.
“To observe a thing like this is very unusual,” said Ingela Jansson, head of the KopeLion conservation group, which seeks to resolve conflict between lions and local residents who hunt the predators in order to protect their livestock.
The lactating lion, fitted with a GPS collar so that researchers can track her, may have lost her own cubs and therefore was open to feeding the leopard cub, Jansson said. The leopard, meanwhile, appeared to have lost contact with its mother, she said.
“Cross-species nursing for wild cats, and other wildlife for that matter, is extremely unique,” according to a statement from Panthera, a wild cat conservation group based in New York.
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