A lioness at Germany's Leipzig Zoo shocked everyone after she ate two of her cubs, just two days after giving birth to them.
According to the Zoo officials, the 5-year-old lioness -- named Kigali -- was behaving normally until Monday night when she suddenly ate the two cubs whole, reported German news outlet, Deutsche Welle.
"The inexperienced lioness also took care of her cubs in the evening before suddenly completely eating the two cubs while grooming them. An autopsy and thus an examination of the cubs cannot take place because of this," the Zoo said in an official statement, per the outlet.
The incident left zoo officials horrified as they couldn't understand Kigali's behavior. The lioness was in good health and was eating properly before and after giving birth to the cubs. However, they believe that the reason for killing and eating her own cubs could either be because she was a new mother or because the cubs might have developed some problems.
As the news went viral on social media, people showed a mixed reaction toward the incident. While some people expressed their sadness over the incident, others were of the view that humans should mind their own business and not interfere in the matters of the animal kingdom."What do you expect with the mental state of anyone in captivity?" one person pointed out on Twitter. "Why do we still have zoos in 2019?" another one opined. While a third person wrote that "it's not horror, it's nature."
According to an article by Africa Geographic, infanticide is not uncommon among animals, including big cats. Although its usually an adult lion who kills its cubs and eats them, the behavior is also sometimes witnessed among lionesses.
Per the piece, the killing of one's cubs is to ensure the survival of the fittest -- a notion that is often overlooked when studying the animal kingdom. According to research, certain species of animals sometimes kill their own offspring as the act can provide certain benefits to the parent. These include increased opportunities for reproduction, scarcity of food and resources, abnormality, and direct nutritional benefits, among others.
The article also mentioned that when a mother kills its cubs, referred to as filial infanticide, it can help her increase her lifetime reproductive success. At other times, lionesses kill their cubs if they are handicapped, weak or have an illness.
Adult males, on the other hand, usually kill the cubs because the lioness does not go into heat if she is nursing the cubs. If cubs are killed, the female becomes receptive to mating again and enables adult males to procreate.