Stop tickling me, mum! The endearing images which show the maternal side of lions at play
By Eddie Wrenn
It looks such a human gesture - a mother leaning over her child to tickle its belly, as the toddler gleefully tries to fend off the attack.
But this is not a little domestic scene played out in lounges across the world, but lion cubs playing with their mother in the national reserves of Kenya.
On this occasion, the lioness was attempting to go off hunting - but the cubs wanted her attention, and pestered her until she relented and agreed to play with them instead.
Whose ticklish then? The fluffy three-month-old lion cub plays with his mother, gently patting her mother's cheeks with a human-like gesture
The siblings relax and play with the lioness in Masai Mara, Kenya, with each cub getting a friendly lick in turn as they prevent their mother from hunting
The fluffy lion cubs are only three-months-old - but thought they could look after themselves.
Their mother tried to make them hide in the bush while she went off to hunt, but they resisted and - like any cute infant - eventually persuaded the lioness to play instead.
Photographer Jagdeep Rajput, 51, said: 'The lioness clearly had plans to go off and hunt wildebeest.
'She wanted the cubs to remain in the bush but three of them were in a playful mood.
'The lioness was perhaps a first time mother and tried to pick up the cubs by the scruffs of their neck and take them inside the bush.
'But they weren't having any of it and resisted. She kept trying, picking them up one by one, but she was not successful.
'Eventually, she ended up playing with them.'
Tickling, while fun for those of all ages, is believed to have evolutionary value, teaching us at a young age to defend their weak spots, such as the rib-cage, from attack.
And, by the looks of it, humans are not the only ones to benefit from the lesson at a young age.
Human behaviour: The pure joy of motherhood - and childhood - seems to be expressed in these images
Mr Rajput took the shots of the animal family while on safari in the Masai Mara, Kenya.
It was the bank worker's first visit to Africa and he was around 15 - 20 feet away from the cubs as they misbehaved close to the banks of the Mara river.
Enchanted, he looked on as the mum nuzzled and licked the mischievous youngsters.
Mr Rajput, from India, said: 'It's not very common to see young cubs from close quarters.
'They were not really concerned about the vehicles around and were behaving naturally.
'It was my first day on safari and I was very delighted with the encounter.
'I used to dream about such a shoot with tigers, which never happened, but the lions obliged me on the very first day.
'It was very sweet and special.'
Mr Rajput's guide then spotted a cheetah preying on a Thompson gazelle in the distance and their party moved off, leaving the cubs to play for the rest of the day.
of the photographer, Jagdeep Rajput:
Awards & Achievements :
|Awarded 'Runner-up' for Gerald Durrell Award in British Gas Wildlife Photographer of the Year' 1995 competition, organized by BBC and Natural History Museum, London.|
|Attended International Symposium on Wildlife Photography at Royal Geographical Society, London in Oct.95.|
|Awarded Honorable Mention in National Geographic Traveler's Eighth Annual Photo Contest in 1996, USA.|
|Awarded 'Highly Commended' in Ballantine's International Photography Award 1996, U.K.|
|Awarded 'Honorable Mention' in Canon Asia Pacific Photo Contest 1996, from Canon Singapore.|
|Received prize in International World Heritage Photo Competition by UNESCO France in 1997.|
|'Highly Honored Winner' in the Endangered Species category of the 2005 Nature's Best Photography Awards Competition, USA.|
|Second Prize in The Sanctuary-Abn Amro Wildlife Photography Awards 2006.|
|First Prize in the professional category of Canon-WWF Photography contest 2006. The Prize carried a latest digital Canon camera.|
|'Highly Honored Winner' in the Endangered Species category of the 2007 Nature's Best Photography Awards Competition, USA.|
|First Runner-up in 2008 Editor's Pick Awards, USA in wildlife category.|
|'Highly Honored Winner' in the Animal Antics category of the 2009 Nature's Best Photography Awards Competition, USA.|
|'Highly Honored Winner' in the Endangered category of the 2010 Nature's Best Photography Awards Competition, USA.|
|Highly Honored Winner' in the Animal Antics category of the 2011 Nature's Best Photography Awards Competition, USA.|
|National Geographic Traveler, USA.|
|Nature's Best Photography magazine, USA.|
|1998 Travel Calender by National Geographic, USA.|
|Cedco 2000 calender line, USA.|
|1999 Defenders of Wildlife calender, USA.|
|2010 Natures Best wall calender USA.|
|The Green Directory I & II published by Visual Communications Group, U.K.|
|Eco Traveler, USA .|
|The Telegraph, UK ; The Sunday Telegraph , UK ; The Independent , UK ; The Sunday Times , UK ; The Daily Mail, UK ; The Mail on Sunday , UK ; Daily Express UK ; Sun , UK ; Daily Mirror , UK ; The Daily Telegraph etc .|
|The Sunday Magazine, UK ; The Economist, UK etc.|