Lion Cubs

19th November 2011
A few months ago, the local pride male was regualarly seen mating with his females. Sure enough, 3.5 months on, there are lion cubs around. But this isn't always the case and we are lucky that so many of the cubs seem to be doing well.

Lions certainly sit at the top of the food chain. And apart from hunting accidents (buffalo don't like to go without a fight) adults aren't at risk from predation. However, cubs are very vulnerable. A roaming male attempting to claim a pride for himself will first kill any cubs fathered by the previous male. Females may try to protect their cubs, but it's thought that any less than a year old will perish. Such is nature's way of perpetuating only the strongest genes.

Females try to ensure that cubs are only born into a stable pride by first coming into a false oestrus, where the male will mate, but the female doesn't ovulate. This way, the male must hold the pride long enough to mate again, before he fathers cubs.

The lion pride situation has been very unstable in the last couple of years. Large prides of 17 - 22 are too big for most males to hold, so they tend to fragment and this makes females and their cubs vulnerable. Last year, a large proportion of the cubs born did not make it to their first year and there may be more that we never knew about. So to have 6 lion cubs in the local area which are readily visible to us suggests that the females feel more secure.

This youngster was the most alert when found them today, and tried to play with his siblings who were mostly too fat to move! At roughly 12 weeks, they are still suckling, but will also sample fresh kills.

These two are about 3-4 weeks old and didn't even turn round when I arrived - despite the heat, they were piled on top of each other like huskies!

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