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Food or Friend: Animals That Adopt out of Their Species

Lions take care of baby antelopes; baboons befriend chickens. Within the animal kingdom, there have been several examples of animals bonding with others outside their own species. This leaves scientists scratching their heads and asking why.


Here is a series of the most unusual bondings in the wild.



Baboon Adopts Lost Chicken






Mitis, a baboon in a Lithuanian zoo, found companionship after a baby chick, meant for food, wandered into his cage. Mitis immediately took on the chick as if it was his own. “He plays with the chicken, cleans its feathers, sleeps with it, and takes care as if it was his own baby child,” the zoo director said. In the wild, baboons live in close-knit social groups, which may explain Mitis’s need for a companion since he is so far away from his natural habitat.


Leopard Bonds with Baby Baboon





A young leopard, Legadema, hunted and killed a baboon and made a startling discovery as she fed—a baby baboon latching onto her dinner. Onlookers predicted the mighty leopard would feast on the baby as well, but instead, the leopard takes the baby baboon up to safety in a nearby tree. The day-old baby followed the leopard around, perhaps seeking its mother, while the confused leopard tries in vain to take care of the young baboon. Predator and prey no more, these two form a brief bond that would unfortunately not last.




Lioness Has Calf Companion





An oryx is a type of antelope that lions prey on regularly, but in Kenya, there’s one famous lion who chose companionship over dinner. Kamunyak, a lioness referred to as the Blessed One, was discovered cuddling and mothering an oryx calf. The relationship consists of mothering as well as a bit of a cat-and-mouse game. It’s been suggested that Kamunyak might have gone through a traumatic event as a young lioness, sparking her aberrant behavior. The relationship is short-lived due to nearby predators. However, to this day, Kamunyak has separately adopted six oryx calves.

Male Tortoise Acts as Mom to Hippo





An abandoned baby hippopotamus that survived the tsunami waves on the Kenyan coast found a giant male tortoise to be its segregate mother. The male tortoise, who is more than one hundred years old, seemed to accept his position as the hippo’s new mother and the two have been inseparable ever since. “They swim, eat, and sleep together,” the ecologist Paula Kahumbu of Lafarge Park said. “The hippo follows the tortoise exactly the way it followed its mother. Somebody approaches the tortoise; the hippo becomes aggressive, as if protecting its biological mother.” A single photo of the pair has inspired a movie in production about their relationship.


Photo source: Emdot on flickr (cc)

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