Wild animal experts smell a rat after lion ‘adopts’ second oryx

Author: By James Palmer

When a lioness on a Kenyan nature reserve defied the laws of the jungle and adopted not one but two oryx antelopes, many in the Christian country saw the events as the fulfilment of a biblical prophecy.

It was all there in Isaiah 11, 6-7: “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together …”

Others pointed instead to maternal deprivation ? perhaps she had lost a cub, or was unable to bear cubs.

Either way, the bizarre mingling of predator and prey captured the imagination of the Kenyan public. But questions are now being asked after the adoption of the second oryx.

“It is most unusual for a lion to exhibit this kind of behaviour twice,” said Daphne Sheldrick, a wildlife expert who runs an orphanage for animals at the Samburu reserve. She told the Los Angeles Times: “This is Kenya. The level of corruption is high. It’s not beyond the realm of possibilities that this is being stage-managed.”

Tourists and nature experts have flocked to Samburu since the story made the headlines. Lodges in the area, which had suffered a slump in tourism, are reporting brisk business.

The lioness, named Larsen, was first seen mothering an oryx, Simon, in December for two weeks, before the baby was devoured by a male lion. Suspicions grew when a second oryx appeared ? on Valentine’s Day ? and was named Valentine.

Ditte Dahl Lisbjerg, an animal behaviour expert with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, said: “It’s highly unlikely that this could happen a second time.If someone didn’t give her [the] second oryx, then I’d say that this is a lioness with a psychological disorder.”

Other animal experts agreed. Conservationists from Kenya Wildlife Service eventually snatched Valentine to prevent him from starving to death. Larsen was not allowing the oryx’s real mother to suckle him as she had with Simon.

A park spokesman said there was “a possibility” the second oryx might have been introduced as a publicity stunt.

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