The Maternal Instinct in Nature is Unbendingly Strong

Lioness with young lion cubs

It’s high time we get some good news about competing groups working together for  the common good. Leave it to the wild kingdom to show us the way…

Recently, the Washington Post reported on the first recorded sighting of a lioness nursing a presumably abandoned or lost tiny leopard cub. Click on the link to see  some adorable photos.

According to the article, the lioness, living in the Serengeti, had been wearing a GPS tracker for a study on lion behaviors and one of the researchers caught a glimpse of the leopard nursing. This is so unusual because, since lions and leopards are competitors for the same prey, they generally are not generous about letting vulnerable members of the other group survive. The conjecture here is that in this case, hormonal urges overcame all others when the lactating lioness saw the motherless leopard.

In another fascinating Washington Post  article, the history of interspecies nursing is traced. There are stories of goats nursing human babies (reason: the nipples are close to the same size!), and women nursing orphaned baby animals. Some people believed that the babies would take on  the character traits of the animal nursing it, so generally stayed clear of pigs, but approved of donkeys, according to the article.

And of course, humans happily drink cow’s milk, which is crossing species, though most of us would draw the line at suckling on the cow. Of course, we have many options now, both as infants and as adults. But centuries ago, when it often meant a matter of life and death, needs were met however they could be.