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Lion saves leopard cub

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Published: 7.15.2017
Level 6   |   Time: 3:51
Accent: British
Source: BBC Global News Podcast (7.14.2017)

A lioness (female lion) finds and takes care of an orphaned leopard cub (baby).

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triangle Directions


  1. REVIEW the vocabulary.
  2. LISTEN to the audio.
  3. ANSWER the questions.
  4. CHECK your answers (Show Answers)

triangle Vocabulary


  • a leopard [n] - a type of big cat [image]
  • a cub [n] - a baby cat [image]
  • unprecedented [adj] - never happened before
  • a lioness [n] - a female lion
  • come across [phv] - find
  • the maternal instinct [n] - the instincts of a mother to take care of babies
  • hormones [n] - a chemical in the body that can affect emotions and actions
  • offspring [n] - babies
  • a scent [n] - smell
  • operational [adj] - working properly
  • a pride [n] - a group of lions
  • suckle [v] - feed a baby with milk from the mother's body
  • Rudyard Kipling [p] - author of the Jungle Book [image]
  • species [n] - a class of lifeforms (eg. homo sapiens)
  • hang on [phv] - wait
  • make it [exp] - survive
  • mortality [n] - death
  • a den [n] - a lion's home
  • fascinating [adj] - interesting
  • a GPS collar [n] - a tracking device worn around an animal's neck
  • intervene [v] - act or interfere
  • abnormal [adj] - not normal
  • the outcome [n] - the result or effect

[n] - noun,  [p] - person,  [v] - verb,  [phv] - phrasal verb,  [adj] - adjective,  [exp] - expression


triangle Questions


  1. What happened?
    A lion attacked a group of leopard cubs.
    A leopard is taking care of a lion cub.
    A lion is taking care of a leopard cub.

  2. What evidence is there of this event?
    a video
    photographs
    a news story

  3. In what country did this occur?
    Tunisia
    Tanzania
    Transylvania

  4. How common is an event like this?
    It happens occasionally.
    It happens a few times a year.
    It never happens.

  5. What does Dr. Dickman say she would think about an event like this before she heard about it?
    It was dangerous.
    It was exciting.
    It was impossible.

  6. What distinguishes the leopard cub from the other lion cubs?
    its size
    its smell
    its color

  7. How old is the lion?
    five weeks old
    five months old
    five years old

  8. When did she give birth?
    5 months ago
    in June
    recently

  9. About how old is the leopard cub?
    about 5 months old
    a year old
    the same age as the lion cubs

  10. According to Dr. Dickman, what may have happened to the leopard cub's mother?
    The leopard cub's mother was killed by hunters.
    The leopard cub's mother was killed by the lion.
    The leopard cub's mother had too many cubs.

  11. What is important for getting a sheep to take care of a lamb that is not its own?
    scent
    color
    age

  12. What behaviors do lionesses with new cubs often exhibit (show)?
    They suckle other lions' cubs.
    They hunt a lot.
    They keep their cubs isolated from the pride (group) for up to 8 months.
    They kill their weakest cubs.

  13. What is the survival rate for normal lion cubs?
    about 50%
    about 67%
    almost 100%

  14. Does Dr. Dickman think the leopard cub will survive?
    yes
    no

  15. According to Dr. Dickman, what problems could the leopard cub experience?
    The other lion cubs could try to kill the leopard cub.
    It could have trouble nursing from the lioness.
    The lioness may try to kill it.
    The pride could try to kill it when it joins the pride.

  16. What is the lioness wearing?
    a coat
    a GPS collar
    boots

  17. Does Dr. Dickman think humans will try to help the leopard cub?
    yes
    no

triangle Script



Well there are some incredible photos now doing the rounds online showing a leopard cub being nursed not by humans but by a lioness in the wild, in Tanzania. A rare perhaps even unprecedented event. Dr. Amy Dickman is a conservation biologist at the University of Oxford and has been studying big cats for 20 years. She gave her reaction to the photos to my colleague Dan Damon.

I thought it was incredible. I've never seen anything like that before. You know I would have thought it was completely impossible really if you had described it before. So to see it was quite amazing.

What's going on exactly? I mean that seems to be a perfectly normal except that the baby is the wrong colour.

Well exactly. It does seem as if the lion use it as one of her own cubs. Having seen just the photo, we don't know much about the back story, but I believe that lion is about five years old, and apparently she's had cubs at the end of June, so her cubs are about the same age as that leopard cub would be. So it's possible that she came across the leopard. It's possible that she killed the mother of the leopard cub because leopards and lions don't get on well. And then you know the maternal instinct and all the hormones that she's got going on at the moment may have compelled her then to kind of take care of the leopard cub and start suckling it. But it's incredibly unusual.

How do lionesses identify their offspring. Because if you think of sheep, you know, if you want to get a sheep to adopt a lamb that orphaned, you have to try and get the scent right don't you, and all of those things. Is that not operational in lions?

It definitely is, and that's usually part of them and obviously usually they would go off now have their own cubs in a little den. They'll bring them back to the pride at about six to eight weeks old. So after that year, they start to be brought up slightly more as a group, and lionesses will suckle each other's cubs. But even those cubs, they will know they will have the scent on them from this same pride you know their relatives, so it is incredibly unusual for lionesses to adopt a cub they've certainly never seen before and have one of a different species. So it's it is really unprecedented as far as I'm aware.

And what's the future for this leopard car because you know it's all very lovely and Rudyard Kipling, but surely eventually one of the pride is going to say, “Hang on, that's the wrong colour.”

Exactly. Unfortunately it does not look good. I mean it doesn't look good even for the lion cubs. Only about half of them make it to a year old. So it's an awful lot of mortality when they're very young. So even if it's an older lion cub that would be difficult, but to have a leopard cub there, I don't know at the moment whether her cubs are actually alive or not. So at some point if they are alive, she's got to bring them back bring the leopard cub back to the den. And then introduce them to the lion cubs, which obviously could not go well. And even if it got through that period with her lion cubs, or say her existing cubs have already died, at some point she will have to bring it back into the pride. And as you say, they're likely to recognize that it's not a lion. And they will have a much more normal lion leopard interaction which would be for the lions to try to kill the leopard. So it's incredibly unlikely to end well unfortunately. Although it will be fascinating to see what happens.

I suppose there is some hope here because this lion is wearing a GPS collar. We can see that from the pictures. He’s being observed by an organization out there, a conservation organization. So I suppose there's a possibility they might intervene.

There is some possibility of intervention. Generally in Tanzania in the national parks and wildlife areas, people don't intervene. It's very much seen as wild nature, and you know what happens in the wild should be part of the natural process. So there is relatively little intervention. And it would be very unusual to try to sort of facilitate this along because it's such an abnormal event. But yeah, we’ll all be watching with interest to see what happens. It is being monitored by Kopee lions. The project up in Goro Goro. So I think I'll be fascinated to see what the outcome is. And I think we all hope it's good, but unfortunately it doesn't look that likely, unfortunately, for the little leopard.

Doctor Amy Dickman there from the University of Oxford.