Friday, March 22, 2013

Gir lioness baby-sits, feeds siblings when mother is away

Gir lioness baby-sits, feeds siblings when mother is away
Times of India

There's nothing like a sister's love. A young lioness, baby-sitting her three six-week-old step siblings when the mother is away hunting, has caught the eye of foresters in the Gir sanctuary.

Experts say this is a rare sight in the wild — the three-year-old lioness not only watches over the cubs, but hunts for them as well. Deputy conservator of forests, Sandeep Kumar, who is documenting this unique behaviour, says generally one-and-a-half month old cubs are not exposed to flesh and blood.

"They only survive on mother's milk," he says. "But in this case, we noticed that when the mother is not around, the sister not only takes care of the cubs but also gets them fresh meat and they seem to be doing well so far."

Kumar adds that cubs first taste meat when they are slightly older. "On a couple of occasions, the sister dragged the kill to the cubs and watched them eat," he adds. To ensure that this premature non-vegetarianism does not have any adverse effects, the foresters are regularly monitoring the health of the cubs.

Even the mother has started hunting closer to home and bringing the kill to the cubs. She makes the kill before the cubs, but ensures that they are at a safe distance, which officials say may be a way of teaching them the first lessons of hunting.

Gujarat additional principal chief conservator of forests, HS Singh says, "Usually, the mother would not expose the cubs to blood before 12 weeks. At 12 weeks, they are given their first taste of blood ands only after a while are they allowed to eat meat."

"Lion cubs are nursed till about six months," says Meena Venkatraman, who has a PhD in lion behaviour from Wildlife Institute of India. "They may start to feed on titbits of meat when the prides are feeding on a kill. This is usually around three months. However, tasting meat is not same as eating meat."

No comments:

Previous Posts