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'What happens in Sibera stays in Siberia...unless it is covered by The Siberian Times'

The rarest big cat in the world needs a normal moggy as her foster mum

By The Siberian Times reporter
11 September 2012

Kiara is so unusual that no-one seems sure what to call her, not that it seems to worry the little cub, almost one month old.

Kiara, born to ligress Zita and lion Samson, turns 27 days old today. Picture: Maria Garifullina

She is the offspring of an eight year old ligress called Zita - whose father was an Africa lion and mother a Bengal tigress - and a lion, named Samson, also from Africa. Officially she is called 'hybrid' which somehow doesn't do justice to her beauty. Some say she is a 'liliger' but, being female, that surely makes her a 'liligress'?

Are there any animal experts out there who know the answer?

Keepers at Novosibirsk Zoo in Siberia say that because Zita's milk failed soon after giving birth they had to rescue the cub in order to save her. 

And this is where domestic tabby cat Dasha stepped in. 

Kiara the rarest cat in the world
That's my girl... Dasha the cat looks after Kiara. Picture: Maria Garifullina
Dasha had just given birth to one kitten and happily took on the role of raising the cute cub and mothering her - even though she will soon have her paws full as Kiara grows. Keepers ensure Kiara has sufficient milk by feeding her with a bottle, but it is Dasha she cuddles up to when she wants to sleep.

'Kiara is now with a two year old cat called Dasha,' said Roza Solovyeva, Head of the Cats Section of Novosibirsk Zoo.

'Dasha belongs to one of our zoo-keepers, but lives on the Zoo's territory, so she is familiar to the smells and sounds of it. 

'She has recently had a kitten, and very soon after Kiara was born, Dasha accepted her. 

Kiara the rarest cat in the world

Kiara the rarest cat in the world

Kiara, pictured with Dasha the cat and Dasha's kitten. Pictures: Maria Garifullina
'Kiara is gaining weight nicely, 100 grams a day and a bit more sometimes, which is average' (for a lion or tiger), Roza Solovyeva said.

She added:  'The mother cat is playing with Kiara, keeps her warm and washes her like her own.'

Sadly, it will now be impossible to let her back to her mother Zita who would no longer recognise her smell. 

'You can't imagine this happening in the wild, that a kitten smelling differently, raised by another female, can be accepted back by its predator mother,' said Roza Solovyeva. 

Zita the ligress

Kiara the rarest cat in the world

Zita the ligress,  and Zita's cub Kiara. Pictures: Alexander Zhiltsov, Maria Garifullina
'No, Kiara will be placed into her own spacious enclosure once she stops the bottle. Dasha plays with Kiara just like with a big kitten, looks after her like a good caring mother. '

Kiara - named after Simba's cub in The Lion King, the Walt Disney Feature Animation - could not have been conceived in the wild. There are a number of cases of ligers and ligresses in the world but experts say it is impossible for males to conceive and exceptionally rare for females to give birth. 

'There is one definition we are using to describe her now, which is a hybrid between a lion and ligress. I myself do not like to use this definition when describing Kiara, but I've got no knowledge of what the other name can be for her,' she said. 

'Some called her a liligress, but I don't know if there is actually a name like that. We've still to check if there are any other hybrids of lion and ligress alive in the world, or have there been in the past - and if so, what they are called.'

The keepers were not surprised that Zita and Samson got together, but had been shocked earlier by Zita's parents producing a cub.

The deputy director of Novosibirsk Zoo, Olga Shilo, said: 'Zita's parents have known each other since their early days, when they were quite young. The keepers saw that they overcame any natural enmity but we had no idea they would, or even could, mate. Everyone was more than a little surprised when a flame of passion consumed these two very different childhood friends.'

Comments (1)

that Zita ligress is stunning, and little Kiara is impossibly cute! (why on earth did the Novosibirsk Zoo put these strange coloured blankets in their box....?) on other hybrids, I've heard about Munich Zoo having a li-liger... or li-ligress, whatever is the name, but cant see it on the Zoo's website. So would be good to understand is Kiara indeed the only one on the world, or not.
May, Germany
12/09/2012 12:10

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