A unique father and son bond between lions has taken place at Blackpool Zoo.
Khari and his dad Wallace were left as the only residents in the Lion House at the zoo after the cub’s mother passed away unexpectedly on Christmas Eve, when he was just seven months old.
Since then the two have become inseparable as the only father and cub group in the UK.
In recent weeks, keepers at Blackpool Zoo have successfully trained Khari to be fence fed to enable them to carry out vital health checks on him. Father and son have now started spending mealtimes together, completing the process of them living full time as one unit.
James Welch is a UK zookeeper who runs the Safina Lion Project website and blog, which is inspired by zoo lions and is dedicated to raising awareness and educating the public about the plight of their wild cousins.
He said: “Within the UK male lion coalitions are not very common, but a father-son coalition is one of a kind and can only be seen at Blackpool. “Two male lions living with one another is a completely natural scenario and is exactly how they would spend their adolescent years before they are mature enough to take over a pride of their own.
“Once theirs they will remain in their coalition keeping other makes away from the pride.
“Khari is slightly different being in this situation at such a young age – he is just one step ahead!”
Lauren Ogden, a keeper on Blackpool Zoo’s large mammal team, added: “We were all devastated when Rachel passed away on Christmas Eve and we kept a close watch on little Khari in the following weeks and months.
“He was unsure about the situation at first but within 24 hours he was eating normally and had turned his attention to Wallace for care and reassurance. Wallace isn’t a first-time father and has always been fantastic with cubs in the past, so we were confident that he would take to his role as a single father very well.
“It is wonderful to see them playing together during the day and snuggling up at night time and despite all the upheaval at such a young age Khari is growing up to be a very confident young male.”