Happy Father's Day! Lion raises his son after mum dies of a stroke

‘It was a huge relief to see Wallace taking over the parenting'

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The Independent Online

A young lion has his a lot to thank his dad for this Father's Day, because he raised him after his mother died of a stroke.  

Khari's mum Rachel was 14-years-old when she gave birth to him - an age considered old for a lioness - at Blackpool Zoo.  

She died seven months later on Christmas Eve morning.  

“She did not get up as usual when we called her name," Adam Kenyon, head of mammals at the zoo told The Mail. "Khari was very confused and was sitting in the corner.”

He added that along with his colleague, he was worried about what would happen to her cub, who was just seven months old at the time. 

Cubs are especially vulnerable in their youth, and are blind and unable to walk for the first few weeks of their lives.

In the wild, hunting and child rearing are responsibilities taken up by the lionesses. While lions will protect their pride against attack, they do not tend to be involved in the day-to-day care of their cubs.

But Khari, which means ‘like a king’ in Swahili, was immediately tended for by his father Wallace. 

Keepers were surprised to find the elder lion take up the role of mother, grooming and licking him, and responding when Khari went to rub heads.


"Khari used to sleep snuggled up next to Rachel, but right away he was snuggling up next to his dad instead," said Mr Kenyon. "It was a huge relief to see Wallace taking over the parenting."

The zoo keepers had been capable of caring for the young cub, but they were glad when Wallace exhibited maternal tendencies, because “you really need a lion to teach a cub how to be a lion.”

In the months that followed, Wallace and Khari were inseparable.

“Wallace’s laid-back personality makes him ‘great dad material. He’s very relaxed — authoritative when he needs to be, but not too aggressive. His tolerance levels are also a lot higher than you’d normally expect from older male lions. Khari has to push him a long way, by jumping on him and knocking him over, before he ticks him off with a swipe,” Mr Kenyon said.