As any dad knows, it’s not easy to do the lion’s share of the childcare when you don’t have any help from Mum.
There’s the job of disciplining unruly tots, keeping them looking clean and teaching them the skills they need in life. But when African lion Wallace lost his mate Rachel suddenly from a stroke when their only cub, Khari, was just seven months old, he took over the parenting duties.
Adult male lions are not known for their tolerance of younger members of their pride — or, for that matter, getting their paws dirty when it comes to childcare.
Khari the lion was taken under the wing of his father, Wallace, after his mother Rachel died just before Christmas
Get ready for playtime . . .
male lions are usually not exactly hands-on dads. They leave all the hard work to the womenfolk: both childcare and hunting.
That said, they do actually stick around, which is more than can be said for most male cats, who clear off once the mating is over.
Cubs are born blind and unable to walk for the first few weeks.
And while lionesses are the main teachers, allowing growing cubs to pounce and chase their tails in preparation for real life, lion dads will also allow their offspring to jump on them and stalk them.
However, they tend to have a much shorter fuse than the mums — often swatting mischievous youngsters away with their giant paws, or snarling at them when their patience wears thin.
Cub scout: Young Khari at his home in Blackpool Zoo. Khari, whose name means ‘like a king’ in Swahili — was one of just two cubs born to the couple
Dads show their true colours, however, when their cubs are under attack from hyenas or rival male lions. They will fight to the death to defend them.
Tragedy strikes at Christmas
Keep close, son: Mother Rachel takes care of her youngster. On the morning of Christmas Eve in 2015, keepers at the zoo found the lioness lying on her side. She had died from a massive stroke
‘She did not get up as usual when we called her name. Khari was very confused and was sitting in the corner.’ Heartbreakingly, by the time the vets arrived, she had died of a massive stroke.
Wallace steps into the breach
Cheeky: Khari tries to get his father Wallace’s attention. The doting father’s laid-back personality makes him ‘great dad material’, said head of keepers Adam
‘Khari used to sleep snuggled up next to Rachel, but right away he was snuggling up next to his dad instead. It was a huge relief to see Wallace taking over the parenting.
‘We could have done all the feeding and caring for Khari, but you really need a lion to teach a cub how to be a lion.’
Building the father and son bond
Tufty Tyke: Khari begins to grow a mane – just like his dad. As the months went by the bond between father and son only grew deeper
In the pride, the males always eat first — even though the females do all the hunting of prey such as antelope, zebras and wildebeest. And it’s a privilege that Wallace is not keen to give up, says Adam.
‘If Khari took a bigger piece of meat than his dad, Wallace would make a bee-line for him and take it off him. But Wallace will let him have his leftovers.’
Khari the cub finds his roar
Striking a pose: Khari lines up with his handsome father. ‘Now Khari makes much bigger noises, as if his voice has broken,’ Adam added