We couldn’t believe our eyes either!
When the Hosana male leopard was found on top of a termite mound, and ranger Harlequin McCquail lifted his binoculars and saw a cub’s head pop up from behind him, he nearly fell out of his Land Rover.
He really had to rub his eyes a few moments later when a second small head peered out from behind the same mound, but this time no spots were visible. Harley (a new ranger who just joined the team and was coincidentally on his first drive) was flabbergasted to see that it was a young lion cub, which for reasons we doubt it understood either, had chosen to associate with the Hosana male and the leopard cub he had with him.
First things first: Which leopard cub was it? Well, given the territory and the fact that we are led to believe that the Hosana male is incredibly friendly, it really could have been any cub, but the size and age-bracket narrows our choices down somewhat, and we suspect it may be one of the Ingrid Dam youngsters. Maybe it got separated from its mother and simply recognised a familiar spotted profile: long tail, rosettes, whiskers, what could possibly go wrong? It must have instinctively followed the Hosana male. Both leopards seemed in good spirits, so they’ll hopefully be lifelong friends.
Secondly: the lion cub.
Shocker, we know!
We doubt something like this has ever happened in the wild before, but it kind of makes sense, since both species are of the Panthera genus, and if they split from a common ancestor once, who’s to say they can’t recombine down the line? Kind of a reverse-evolution inter-species reconciliation thing. The Ntsevu pride have so many cubs at the moment (12 and going strong), it would only be natural for the pride to feel the pinch of raising so many, and start outsourcing their care-taking. We’ve noticed a few of the adult lionesses being a bit short-tempered of late, so we can’t really blame them for this unorthodox approach.
If this cub grows up with a split-personality, hopefully it’ll have at least learnt to climb a bit better from its foster father.
The unlikely trio scuttled off the mound immediately after the cover photo was taken, so we sadly don’t have any further evidence of the once-in-a-lifetime sighting.
Ranger McCquail has been duly admonished for not providing further proof of what some believed were spurious claims, but since there is photoshopped… uh, we mean photographic… evidence, how can we possibly not believe him…?!