Lion cub leads forest rangers to mother’s dead body at sanctuary in India

The 15-month-old cub guarded its mother’s body until officials returned

A lion cub at an sanctuary in India has led forest rangers to its dead mother’s corpse, in what was described as “very rare” behaviour by keepers.

The lion corpse was discovered when a forest guard spotted a cub hiding alone in bushes. The guard followed the animal out of the bushes and to the body at a nearby hill, where it then waited and guarded his mother until other rangers appeared.

Anshuman Sharma, the Deputy Conservator of Forests in the Gujarat Gir Forest National Park, told the BBC the lioness most likely died in a fight with another animal.

Mr Sharma said he was patrolling the Tulsi-Shyam range when he spotted the cub hiding, which was unusual as lion cubs are typically accompanied by their mothers.

"I followed the cub which led me to its mother's body lying on a small hillock. The mother was called Rupa. It initially looked like she was sleeping, but when it didn't move, I prodded it with my stick. That's when I discovered that the lioness was dead," he said.  

A post-mortem found the animal had sustained broken bones and internal injuries and had died from a haemorrhage, said Mr Sharma. It was aged about 11-years-old.  

He later returned with a team of officials to remove the body, and found the cub still sat next to his mother – something he described as “very peculiar”.

Cubs are typically dependent on their mothers until they are aged between two and three-years-old. The 15-month-old is now being monitored by forest officials as a precaution.

"It's mother, Rupa, seemed to be a loner who lived and hunted alone, But now that the lioness is gone, we expect the cub to join another group, or another lioness may start looking after it," Mr Sharma added.

Lion expert Yadvendra Dev Jhala of the Wildlife Institute of India said he has never heard of a similar incident.

However, he told the BBC the lions there "generally know their individual guards well" because of the lack of conflict between humans and the animals in Gir.

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