Having spent some time in the bush recently tracking down various lions for photo opportunities, the rangers shared this information with us.
- A lioness on her own, may go into false oestrus if she has cubs and if a new male arrives on the scene. She does this to protect her cubs, by diverting his interest away from potentially killing the cubs to mating with her.
- A male lion can mate up to 100 times a day in a process that lasts only about 17 seconds. They can keep this up for around four to five days. Phew!
- The male lions seldom hang around with the pride to nurture their cubs and may even kill them.
- It’s usually lionesses who approach the male of their choosing, rather than the male approaching the female.
- The female can mate with a number of different pride males and the males do likewise, resulting in cubs in the same litter having different fathers. This can protect the cubs from infanticide as each male then may believe the cubs belong to him.
- When the cubs are born they have spots, like a cheetah or leopard, but loose them as they mature.
- When they reach two years old, (sexually mature) the male cubs will be ousted from the pride by the dominant male. Sadly, many will die in the first few weeks, as most are inexperienced hunters. The female cubs are normally allowed to stay in the pride.
- Lionesses are often seen biting males during mating. This is because the male’s spiked penis can cause pain when withdrawn, which understandably makes her want to retaliate. But nature has a purpose for this, because but in hurting her it stimulates ovulation to occur. Still, seems a bit unfair to me!
- In some prides up to 80% of the cubs don’t survive. Either they are killed by other males, or they don’t get enough to eat (they typically eat last in the hierarchy of the pride).
- When the dominant male lion is shot by hunters, (always the preferred choice), the effect can be far reaching in the pride, as less genetically strong males step into the dominant male position, weakening the overall genetic make-up of the pride. Over time, and with repetitive hunting, this can seriously affect the pride. Fortunately, many countries have banned hunting.
Words and photography Ann Gadd