The last few weeks in Ngamo have been quite eventful. Of course, the pride have spent many a long day resting, but scattered among these sleepy sessions there have been some exciting happenings.
On the morning of the 3rd of February the pride were resting in one of their favourite spots of the release site known as Amboseli. They had spent the whole day there, almost oblivious to the research team’s comings and goings; piled up together taking shade from the blazing sun. By late afternoon the wind began to pick up and the clouds quickly rolled in bringing a rain shower to disrupt the pride’s peaceful sleep. The change in the weather sparked a movement from the lions, and they all wandered slowly into the Masai Mara area of the site. Milo and AS5 were a little more hesitant to follow the girls and, as shade became shelter, they remained under the shrubs seeking cover from the rainfall. The research team headed off to follow the girls but as they left they couldn’t help but smile as AS5 sat looking a little sorry for himself, his steadily developing mane beginning to flop in the damp air.
The Ngamo pride relaxing before the rain
As the team caught up with the rest of the pride in Masai Mara, they noticed two females up ahead in the long grass. It was hunting partners KE3 and AT1 causing chaos as they stalked a large group of helmeted guineafowl that were travelling on the ground. Unfortunately for the guineafowl, KE3, who already has somewhat of a reputation for catching birds, charged towards the flock and successfully caught a chick. The rest of the guineafowl instantly flew to the trees making raucous calls in response to the attack, while the rest of the female lions quickly made their way over to KE3 to investigate the fuss.
'Fowl play' from KE3
The fact that AS5 and Milo remained resting together is not surprising; the pair have developed one of the strongest social bonds in the pride. However, the research team were interested to learn just exactly how much of a bond the males have, and whether four year old AS5 has yet developed the instinct to protect his territory. The team conducted a territorial playback experiment of the roar of a solitary unknown male; but they were not expecting the exhilarating results they received.
As the roar bellowed across the release site, Milo and AS5 reacted instantly. The males of the pride rose to their paws and within seconds set off together to investigate the ‘intruder’. In moments AS5 had taken the lead and he trotted on ahead as his father continued at walking pace behind him. Once at the boundary, Milo stayed with the females whilst AS5 stood vigilant at the boundary, keenly looking for any sign of the unknown male. Once AS5 was satisfied his territory was safe he returned to his father and the pair entered into an extended greeting session, rolling on the floor beside each other. And there it was, the team’s suspicions were confirmed; Milo and his son have formed a coalition and are working together as a team. For now, each has their roles in the pride. Milo is still the overall dominant male, maintaining harmony, and still afforded the lions’ share at mealtimes; but his maturing son is now taking on some of the duties that are expected of a pride male, defence of his territory being the most important. There is no doubt that Milo has been, and continues to be, an excellent role model for his son who will one day take his father’s guidance into the wild.
Milo and AS5; a father and son coalition
About the Ngamo Lion Release Site
The 6 adults (1 male and 5 females) of the ‘Ngamo Pride’ were captive born and released into the ‘Ngamo Lion Release Site’ in 2010, having been walked in the rehabilitation phase of the ex situ conservation project, the African Rehabilitation and Release into the Wild Programme. The pride’s 5 offspring (1 male and 4 females) were born in the site and have had no human contact, display natural behaviours, and are intended for release into the wild in the final phase of the Programme.
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