A wild cat organisation received an image this week which Panthera president Luke Hunter said is ‘unprecedented’ – a lioness suckling a leopard cub.
Hunter said, ‘My jaw just dropped.’
The image, sent in from one of his group’s partners in Tanzania, show a lioness in the Serengeti suckling a tiny, spotted leopard.
Hunter said, ‘“It’s unprecedented. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event.’
Interspecies suckling has previously been seen among captive animals – but Hunter says it’s never been seen in the wild between large carnivores.
Normally, a lioness would kill the leopard cub.
The photos were taken at Ndutu Lodge in the Ngorogoro Conservation Area – and the lioness, known as Nosikitok, gave birth to three cubs in June.
Hunter said that Nosikitok is ‘absolutely awash with maternal hormones and that instinct to take care of her own babies.
‘This simply wouldn’t have happened if she wasn’t suckling her own babies.’