Kings of the jungle, protectors of the bushveld and guardians of the night. Lions are our regal and powerful cats that dominate their kingdoms with power and vigour. They’re one of the big five, and have certainly earned their rank as being the top predator in the wild. As a species, they’re pride orientated and command respect from their onlookers. A perfect enigmatic mix of gruesome, ruthless and loving. Lion pride dynamics are constantly shifting, and today we’re going to discuss why, and we’ll let our safari-goers in on a few secrets about these deep-chested cats!
Lion Lifestyle: Females and sub-adults remain in prides, males leave to form coalitions
Like most male species in the animal kingdom, male lions are the wandering bachelors. Females stay within their natal prides and rarely leave their sisterhood. If it’s a mega-pride, you might find a few breakaway females forming a sub or mini pride. When young males come of age, they are filled with a wild eagerness to procreate, and they also have a dangerous level of aggressive testosterone, which the females and their youngsters can’t cope with. As a result, these coming-of-age youngsters are kicked out of the pride at age 2 – 3.
The brazen youngsters are expected to establish their own territories, and ultimately find a pride to call their own – how they go about doing this can be quite tumultuous and cruel, with many duels ending in death. The end goal with male lions is to increase their bloodline by finding available females with which to mate, and eliminating competition by any means possible.
Youngsters that have been ousted – often brothers – form a tight-knit coalition. They spend their days patrolling, pushing boundaries, and confronting or fleeing from already established male lions. You will often see 2 males strutting together in the wild, or patrolling in the dead of the night seemingly with no pride or connection. They don’t spend much time with their prides because they have land to protect.
Prides normally comprise related females and their young (male and female); and a dominant male or two that might also reign over other prides. Lion pride dynamics are constantly changing. New males come in and chase off reigning kings, young males grow up and create new prides, and the dynamics become complex.
Lion Hunting Skills: The take-down is well-formulated
Lions hunt in prides and their skills in the wild are admirable. The have well-formulated plan before they head in for the attack. Each lion has a role to play before the charge takes place, and positions are quite similar to that of a football team. Individuals will often monitor and observe a potential target while it’s still light outside. They’ll hide out, waiting in the wings without detection. When darkness descends, they will use the cover of blackness to stalk their prey. When they’re within 30 m of their prey they will ambush their victim, and the hunting lions will charge in from all angles.
Lion Dinner Table Habits: Older males must eat first
Lions have a patriarchal hierarchy at the dinner table. The kings must eat first. If they saunter into the pride, well after the youngsters and females have tucked into their meal, they must move out of the way. The cubs are last in the pecking order, and you need to be a feisty fighter to push your siblings out of the way to get a piece of the action. Although, male lions do often share their food with the young cubs. It’s the females that eat last – despite the fact that they are generally the ones that did the hard graft.
Lion Bedroom Habits: In a complicated relationship
The lion mating process can be quite violent to witness. It’s painful for the lioness – the male has a barbed penis that stimulates ovulation in females. Males will mate for 17 seconds at a time up to 100 times a day. The mating couple tend to disappear from the pride and find a hidden corner to conduct their activity. This mating process can go on for days. You might find that the female will mate with two brothers – one of the coalition will step in when the other one’s energy wanes. She will always have the protection of two lions in the future should one of them sire cubs with her. Don’t underestimate the intelligence of a lioness!