A rare and heartwrenching story has come out of India. A young lion cub caught the attention of one of the forest guards at Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary and then led him to the recently deceased corpse of his mother.
Forest Guard Rana Mori told BBC, “On Saturday afternoon, I was patrolling the Tulsi-Shyam range of the sanctuary when I saw a cub hiding in the bushes.” Mori was concerned because young lion cubs are rarely seen without their mother.
“As I got close to the cub, it started moving away and kept looking back to check if I was following him. After 30-odd metres, I spotted the carcass. I intimated my superiors and the carcass was sent for postmortem,” according to The Times of India. The cub refused to leave his mother’s side until authorities came to remove the carcass.
The lioness was an 11-year-old loner among the 400 plus lions who inhabit the sanctuary. She hunted alone and lived alone with her 15-month-old cub. Her name was Rupa, which means “beautiful one.”
It is surmised that Rupa was killed in a run-in with a herd of water buffalo. She had sustained broken ribs. A necropsy disclosed her cause of death to be intestinal hemorrhage. Her death is also rare in that most lions die of natural causes or fights among themselves.
Cattle grazing at Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary commonly increases during the monsoon season. “Usually lions die of infighting and natural causes. It is very rare to see the predator being killed by a herd of resilient herbivorous animals,” said HS Singh, a lion expert and member of India’s National Board of Wildlife.
Rupa and her cub are Asian Lions. The breed is critically endangered with only about a dozen remaining in the wild. They are carefully monitored at sanctuaries like Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary. Once roaming from the Middle East to India, Asian lions now live primarily at Gir. About 200 live in zoos throughout the globe.
The lifespan in the wild is 16 to 18 years. They grow to between 300 to 500 pounds. Females are the primary hunter in these lion prides, with the male protecting the territory from intruders. The size of an average pride is about 15 lions consisting of perhaps three males, a dozen females and their cubs. As the male cubs mature they will leave the group to join or establish their own pride.
Perhaps if Rupa had joined a pride she would be alive today.
What Becomes of the Little Cub?
Lion cubs are totally dependent on their mother until they reach age two-and-a-half to three years old. For the time being, the cub is being closely monitored by forest officials. It is expected another lioness will adopt him or he may discover another group of lions that will take in the little orphan.
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