Nosikitok, this is the name of the five-year-old lioness who was observed to breastfeed a leopard cub. In what is now considered the Noah’s Ark of East Africa – Ngorongoro, Tanzania. The images of the event were captured by a visitor to this conservation area, according to the British newspaper The Guardian.
The evolution of this lioness has been accompanied by conservationists and it was they who learned that the lioness became pregnant and had her own litter at the end of June. The reasons for the suckling of this leopard calf are still unknown.
“She is physiologically prepared to care for cat babies and the leopard meets the requirements – it is almost exactly the same age as her young and physically very similar”, said Luke Hunter, the president of Panthera, an organization exclusively dedicated to the conservation of 40 Cat species and their ecosystems.
This was the first time a leopard calf was observed to be breastfed by a lioness.
Thus, Luke Hunter says that “it is truly a unique case”, simultaneously the possibility of this lioness having lost their offspring and having found the leopard cub when it was “in a particularly vulnerable state”.
However, the future of this breeding is uncertain because, on the one hand, the Panthera leader stresses the weak probability of the pack accepting the leopard: “lions have very strong and complicated relationships, in which they recognize individuals – by sight and by Roars – and therefore are very well equipped to distinguish the offspring from the other. If the rest of the pack finds the leopard, he is likely to be killed”. On the other hand, if the small leopard can reach 12-18 months of age, its survival becomes possible.
Luke Hunter explains on the website of his organization that if the baby reaches adulthood, there is a chance of developing normal leopard behavior because “its early exposure to lion society would not exceed the millions of years of evolution it has the leopard to be a supreme lone hunter”.
For these species, the greatest threat continues to be their illegal hunting, since these felines pose many times, a threat to the cattle of the local communities. Nosikitok is one of several animals being monitored by the Korongoro People’s Lion Initiative (Kope Lion), the NGO that saved 26 lions in 2016, including some members of the Masek herd, the one to which this lioness belongs.
Alarming the communities in the Ngorongoro area in the vicinity of packs, strengthening livestock protection and treating injured animals have been other actions undertaken by the organization to promote peaceful coexistence between shepherds and lions.