Himanshu Kaushik | TNN | Updated: May 13, 2018, 11:06 IST
AHMEDABAD: There's nothing quite like mother's love. More so in the lion kingdom where child rearing is almost exclusively a mother's domain with fathers known to resort to cannibalism. In such a scenario, the Bedhia Nar, a lion from Bedhia village of Gir-Somnath district, has rewritten parenting rules in the last abode of Asiatic lions in the world.
The lion christened as 'Bedhia Nar' has single-handedly raised his three cubs — all aged two — just like a lioness would have. The cubs were barely three months old when the lioness got electrocuted while entering a farm. The pride did not have any other lioness.
This rare departure in behaviour of the big cat was first noticed by naturalists Jalpan Rupapara and Purvesh Kacha in 2016. The naturalists, both medical practitioners, documented the lion's activities with 26 CCTV night vision cameras after seeking special permission from forest department for two years. The male lion not only hunted and fed the cubs, but also taught them to hunt and hid them while it was away.
Lionesses usually hide cubs from lions
"Never in our wildest imagination did we expect the lion will be so responsible for its cubs," says Rupapara. He adds, "Generally, lions do not actively participate in child rearing. In fact, a lioness would generally keep cubs away from the lion fearing harm as Big Cats are known to attack their litter if they suspect the cubs' paternity. But the Bedhia lion took over mothering the three month old cubs after the lioness died,” said Rupapara, a radiologist by profession. Kacha, an anesthetist, underscores that the Bedhia lion even avoided mating for two years and never allowed a lioness to come near him purportedly fearing that the "step-mother" may harm his cubs.
The lion has been documented to have mothered the cubs well into their sub adulthood for the past two years. "These days the cubs have begun to hunt, while the lion closely follows them, keeping a watch. The cubs even share their food with their father," says Rupapara who added that they continue to monitor the lions for next two months and submit a detailed research paper on the Bedhia lion's exceptional parenting behavior.
HS Singh, a lion expert and member of the National Board for Wildlife, says, "The Bedhia lion's behavior is rare considering that lions usually do not take care of their cubs. In case of death of the mother, 'aunts' in the pride takes on the responsibility of bringing up the cubs. With probably no lioness in his pride, the lion solely assumed the dual responsibility of a father as well as mother," said Singh.