BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in: World: Africa
Front Page 
Middle East 
South Asia 
From Our Own Correspondent 
Letter From America 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Monday, 7 January, 2002, 11:41 GMT
The lioness and the oryx
Map of Kenya, BBC
Tourists flocked to watch the unlikely pair
A lioness in central Kenya has baffled wildlife experts by adopting a baby oryx, a kind of small antelope normally preyed upon by big cats.

The lioness and the oryx, BBC
In the afternoon, they lay down together to rest
Reports say the full-grown lioness came across the oryx two weeks ago in the Samburu Game Reserve, scaring off its mother.

Instead of then attacking the defenceless calf, the lioness adopted the baby, protecting it from other predators, including a leopard.

Extraordinarily, the lioness still allowed the mother oryx occasionally to come and feed her calf before chasing her away. But the rule of the wild ultimately prevailed on Sunday when a male lion attacked and killed the baby oryx while the lioness was sleeping.

'Special instinct'

"This is either an extraordinary case of maternal instinct or simply the eighth wonder of the world," local Herman Mwasaghu told The Nation newspaper.

What is baffling is why the relationship has lasted so long

Wildlife expert Vincent Kapeen
Mr Mwasaghu was one of the first to spot the unlikely pair, which proved a powerful draw for tourists and game workers alike.

The lioness would lie down to rest in the afternoon and its unlikely charge would curl up beside her.

Wildlife expert Vincent Kapeen said he thought the lioness spared the oryx "because animals have a special instinct to care for the young".

"What is baffling is why the relationship has lasted so long," he was quoted as saying.

Sad ending

According to the AFP news agency, the sad end to the story came on Sunday when the lioness led the oryx to the river to drink.

Weakened by two weeks of looking after her adopted baby, she fell asleep, failing to notice a hungry male lion in the area.

The oryx was no more. Patrick Muriungi, a receptionist at Samburu Lodge, told AFP the lioness was grief-stricken when she awoke to realise what had happened.

"She was very angry. She went around the lion about 10 times roaring, and then the lioness disappeared," he was quoted as saying.

She has not been seen since.

See also:

22 Oct 01 | Sci/Tech
Africa's birds face farming threat
18 Oct 01 | Sci/Tech
South Africa's floral riches at risk
27 Jan 01 | Sci/Tech
Gorillas do well despite war
05 Nov 00 | Media reports
'Extinct' lions surface in Siberia
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Africa stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Africa stories