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Wildlife  |  28 March 2018

Lion dynamics

Our fears on the fate of the Old South Lioness appear to have been confirmed, as she has not been seen since late January. At this point we must assume she succumbed to her injuries and it is the end of an era, as this once formidable lioness is no more.

With this development, the South Pride have a tougher task of holding territory now that they are a missing such an important pride member.

 

The North Pride, having spent several days on the northern side of the Great Fish River, recently came marching south in a show of force. Roaring and scent marking along the way, they moved right through the central parts of the reserve, forcing the South Pride even further south in what is clearly a plan for expanding their own already considerable territory.

Two days later, they were at it again. They came searching for the South Pride and again forced a withdrawal deeper into the south.

The remaining members of the South Pride, a lioness and her four almost fully-grown cubs are now outnumbered by the North Pride, who are currently seven members strong. With her cubs on the verge of turning two years old, the South Pride Lioness should be ready to mate again within the next couple of months, which could create a few changes in the overall lion dynamics.

Lion dynamics - 1
Lion dynamics - 2

Firstly, it could spice up the rivalry between the males - there is no better incentive than mating rights! There have already been several altercations between the South Male (who currently controls North, South and Boschgift Prides) and the Dark Male. Thus far the South Male has remained in the lead, but with the Dark Male spending considerable time in the south of the reserve of late, a South Lioness ready to mate could easily be the catalyst for him to have another and far more serious grab for power.

Secondly, this could open the door even wider for the North Pride to secure more real estate. After mating, and during her 3-and-a-half-month gestation, a lioness will seek out potential den sites, secluded spots where she can give birth and keep her new cubs hidden and safe. Once her cubs are born, she will usually keep them in a den (she may move them to new den sites if necessary) for around 6 weeks before introducing them to the rest of the pride.

During this entire period, the South Pride Lioness would be spending far less time with her current litter, who would be left to their own devices for long periods, and security on territorial boundaries would certainly be weaker as a result. A push from the North Pride could not only lead to them claiming some of the South Prides’ territory, but could also become a huge threat to the safety of her new litter.

 

Lion dynamics - 3
Lion dynamics - 4

The Boschgift pride have remained an enigma in recent times. One of the lionesses has been seen several times in the eastern parts of Kwandwe and judging by her teats, is clearly suckling a new litter of cubs somewhere in the area. As yet, we have no idea how many cubs she has and when we might be fortunate enough to see them for the first time.

The whereabouts of her adult daughter are unknown at this stage, but when a lioness is denning new cubs as is happening now, pride members can be apart for long periods and we are hoping they will reunite when the cubs are old enough to come out of the den. Territory wise they have largely suffered the fate explained above that could happen to the South Pride. The North Pride move at will through what was Boschgift Pride territory, but hopefully with this new litter adding to their numbers they will again be able to compete on a more level playing field in the future.

How is it all going to unfold? Is this how it is going to take place, or does Mother Nature have a few twists and turns in this ongoing tale? 

Time will tell…and we’ll be watching closely! 


 

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