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Mothers gone wild

Post by Patrick O'Callahan on May 12, 2013 at 5:37 am with No Comments »
May 10, 2013 5:18 pm

You may have caught this story on the National Geographic channel already. If not, take a look. You may find it as amazing as I did.

Leopards are not noted for their charity. They catch something, they eat it. It’s how they make a living.

Yet this female leopard was captured on film trying to mother a baby baboon. The film crew had been following Legadema – as they’d named the cat – for months. One day, it killed a baboon. Poking around, the leopard found a tiny baboon hanging on to its dead mother.

Here’s the Mother’s Day tie-in: Instead of making an hors d’oeuvre of the little creature – as any male leopard surely would have – Legadema rescues it from a pack of hyenas, carries it up a tree and nuzzles and cuddles it. The cat is no substitute for baboon mommy, though; despite its efforts, the little baboon eventually expires.

Legadema is reminiscent of the lioness that adopted a series of orxy calves in Kenya in 2002.

This is exceedingly rare behavior, and I’m not sure what it says about the tender mercies of big felines. But it does show that the maternal instinct is so powerful in some mammals that it can not only leap the bounds of species but also leap the bounds of a super-predator’s killing instinct.

Let’s not dwell on Jaya, the Sumatran tiger at Tacoma’s Point Defiance zoo, which produced a cub, then ignored it.

But thank heaven for mothers – especially the human kind.

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