The rules of nature are set, and so is the role of every animal in it. In their little herds and packs, each creature plays a certain role and does so, instinctively. The father, mother, and children, all take over certain positions in their “families,” seldom rebelling against them.
However, in the savannahs of Gir-Somnath, a lion has shed its patriarchal nature after its cubs were left motherless, and has donned the role of a mother. Although Asiatic lions are one of the most social species in the cat family, lions usually never assume the role of a lioness.
However, this father, named “Bedhia Nar” by the forest officials turned out to be a rare cat.
Bedhia Nar’s three little cubs were left motherless about two years ago. The cubs were just three months old then, and very vulnerable to the dangers of the jungle.
Typically, a lioness is responsible for teaching her cubs how to hunt and protects them from harm. If she dies, the “aunts” of the cubs take over their responsibility. Aunt, in this context, refers to other lionesses in a pride.
However, there were no more lionesses left in the pride.
Jalpan Rupapara, a naturalist working in Gir-Somnath, told the Times of India, “Never in our wildest imagination did we expect the lion to become this responsible for its cubs. Generally, lions do not actively participate in child rearing.
In fact, a lioness generally keeps her cubs away from the father, as big cats are known to attack their litter if they suspect the cubs’ paternity. But Bedhia took over mothering the 3-month-old cubs after the lioness died.”
For over a year and a half, the lion took its cubs under its wing, protecting them from the many dangers that lurk in the jungles. Purvesh Kacha, a naturalist and anaesthetist who works with Rupapara in Gir-Somnath, claims that Bedhia has even avoided mating, fearing that the “step-mother” may harm his cubs.
He also taught the cubs to hunt prey and sustain themselves. The cubs are about two years old now, the perfect time for them to start getting independent.
“These days the cubs have begun to hunt, while the lion closely follows them, keeping a watch,” said Rupapara, adding that “The cubs even share their food with their father.”
This rare behavioural change in a dominant lion is unquestionably a heart-warming story and goes to show that even animals, although in rare incidents, can shed the “mane” of their designated role and shoulder new responsibilities, to survive.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)