This is the first time that Africa’s apex predator has been seen nursing the young of another species.
The five year old lioness looks a picture of maternal pride as the baby leopard shows it cannot change its spots when a free meal is on offer.
While it would only take one swipe of her paws to kill the three-pound cub, the mother lioness, running high on maternal hormones after giving birth to her own litter last month, sits patiently.
One mystery still lingers: what happened to the leopard after it finished feeding?
The pictures first appeared on the Facebook page of Ndutu Safari Lodge in Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Conservation Area earlier this week and are going viral, with scientists nonplussed by the unprecedented spectacle.
The safari lodge explained on social media how the lioness is known as Nosikitok, which translates to mother’s first milk in the KiMaa language.
Scenes of a lioness feeding a leopard cub have been jailed as a ‘world first’
I know of no other example of inter-species adoption or nursing like this
Explaining how the photographs were taken by guest Joop Van Der Linde, the lodge went on to declare on its Facebook: “Our lovely Nosikitok, in a surge of maternal confusion, briefly adopted a three week old leopard cub… The news has stunned the Lion world…”
At Panthera, the world famous big cat conservation organisation, Dr Luke Hunter put the scene into context.
Dr Hunter, Panthera president and chief conservation officer, said: “This is a truly unique case.