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Nurture Trumps Nature: Lioness Adopts Baby Antelope

Update Date: Oct 12, 2012 10:41 AM EDT

There is something strange happening in the Samburu Game Reserve in Kenya. In an inexplicable turn of events, an adult lioness has adopted a baby Oryx. An Oryx is a species of antelope native to East Africa.

Even more strange is that this is her third adoption in as many days. Unlike those cute YouTube videos of a female dog caring for a kitten, antelopes are food for lions, and a baby antelope is a tasty and tender morsel. This was the case for one of her prior charges. The baby antelope she adopted in December last year, was eaten by other lions after two weeks. The second calf was taken away from her in February and placed in a zoo because it showed signs of malnourishment.

The chief game warden in Samburu, Simon Leirana, said, "We are baffled. We do not know what to do with this third Oryx,"

The lioness is protecting this baby Oryx as she would a cub by becoming very aggressive when anyone tries to get too close. It was also reported that there are three adult Oryx near the lioness and her ward. One of them is believed to be the calf's mother.

Cases of lionesses showing maternal affection for animals they would normally see as prey are not unprecedented, conservationist Daphne Sheldrick said. It does happen, but it's quite unusual. Lions, like all the other species, including human beings, have this kind of feelings for babies," she said.

In another unusual twist, all the adoptions have occurred on holidays: Christmas, Valentine's Day and Good Friday. Wardens are at a loss of what to do with this new adoptee. One wonders what are the chances of the Oryx reaching adulthood in the company of lions.

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