We have all heard about the strong emotional bonds that zookeepers can form with the animals in their care. But this striking video has captured the moment where a tiger in a Mexican zoo repays that care by saving a zookeeper from a leopard attack!
As we join the scene, five female lions are interacting with Eduardo Serio, the zookeeper at a big cat zoo in Mexico City. His bond with the relaxed lions is clear from their body language. They adopt playful and relaxed postures, laying on their backs and exposing their bellies. Eduardo can even gently beat out a rhythm on a lion’s rib cage as she lounges on the grass. Meanwhile, Aztlan the tiger is resting close by and appears to be guarding the touching scene. As Eduardo chats to the camera in Spanish and English, the lion lifts her leg for a belly rub and is clearly enjoying the human attention.
However, we soon realize that not all of the resident big cats are quite as fond of Eduardo as the lions are – one leopard seems to have taken a sudden dislike to him! In the background, Dharma the leopard is lurking and surveying the scene with disdain whilst partially hidden by a tree. Eventually, the leopard can put up with it no longer and takes a circular route to approach the group from behind. At first, the approach is fairly casual and goes completely unnoticed by the zookeeper and the lions. But there’s no getting past Aztlan who can see exactly what is going to happen and intervenes.
As the leopard breaks into a run and accelerates rapidly, the tiger adopts a crouched attacking position and intercepts the spotted intruder before he can reach Eduardo. We see the tiger spring forward and Dharma launches a spectacular leap into the air to avoid the collision. The commotion in the background grabs the attention of the cameraman and the zookeeper who turns around just in time to see Dharma racing towards him with faithful Aztlan in hot pursuit. Giving a sharp “Hey!”, he turns around and helps the tiger to tip Dhurma onto his back. Even so, the leopard manages a sneaky paw swipe at the keeper’s legs before rolling over and looking a little embarrassed at his outburst!
With his job done, the Tiger strolls nonchalantly away as the keeper thanks him with a cheerful “Gracias.”
Leopards have something of a reputation as the bad guys of the big cat population. Last year, 31 out of the 63 deaths caused by wild animals in India were associated with leopards. They are solitary animals who do not tend to live with others – as we see at the start of this video. These are the sprinters of the cat world, able to reach 30 mph so poor Eduardo would never have outrun this attacker!
But when it comes to a straight tiger-on-leopard confrontation, the slight leopard cannot outfight the powerful tiger. One swipe of an angry tiger’s paw can pack up to 18,000 pounds and that would send a leopard flying!
If we’ve got you interested in big cat action, check out these other fascinating videos!
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