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Unusual Sighting: Lion Mother Spotted Nursing a Baby Leopard

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A guest at a World Heritage Site at Ngorongoro Conservation Area in Tanzania was truly fortunate to not only catch a glimpse of a never before seen happening but to also take a photograph of a lioness named Nosikitok nursing a baby leopard.

In an interview with LiveScience, the president and chief conservation officer of Panthera, Luke Hunter said that the incident was “unprecedented” adding that “It’s the first case of any big cat in the wild suckling a cub of another species.”

While there is no information as to how the lioness and baby leopard met, Hunter is theorizing that since the lioness has a litter of cubs, her maternal instincts may have prompted her to nurse the leopard rather than killing it.

While those who have seen the pictures may find the incident heartwarming and touching, the reality may be a bit harsher as to the future of the cub especially if the leopard won’t be reunited with its birth mother.

According to Hunter, lionesses care for and raise  litters away from the pride, which would be safe for the leopard cub if in case Nosikitok decides to raise it.

The problem would arise approximately after two months when it is time for the lioness to bring her cubs back to join the pride. While the lion cubs and Nosikitok are familiar with the leopard cub, the rest of the grown lions in the pride will see the baby leopard for what it is – a tasty meal.

“It would be unlikely that the rest of the pride would accept it,” said Hunter.

Hunter may not be positive about a warm welcome for the leopard cub in the pride but he wants to keep an open mind, saying: “You never know, because up until this week, I would have said this doesn’t happen. You can never predict, can you? But it seems really unlikely.”

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