A Question of Character
August 16 2016

For the past five weeks, Facilitated Research student Alice Southam, from Sussex University in the UK, has been undertaking data collection on the Dambwa Pride for her Bachelors dissertation, to assess whether there are distinct character traits in individuals.  By playing back different animal sounds through a speaker, she is looking to determine if there is a consistency in the reaction of each individual.  

Alice using playbacks of animal calls to record the individual reactions of pride members

Alice has tested several different calls of various species, including hyena, leopard, and wild dog, as well as calls of lions unknown to the pride.   These various calls can indicate opportunities and threats to the lions, including potential sources of food, or competition.

Whilst the research has just been concluded, and no statistical analysis has yet been completed, by observation the team has noticed that the sub-adults of the pride are more vigilant than the adults when it comes to the calls of hyena, whilst wild dog and leopard calls didn’t seem to prompt much reaction from any lion.

There is a strong indication that the pride, especially the adults, respond to the calls of unknown lion roars. The lion playbacks varied from single to multiple lions roaring, as well as different sexes.  Just by observation, Zulu was more vigilant to lion calls than to those of other animals, and especially male lion roars.  Loma very rarely responded at all!  Overall, the young LE boys were most vigilant to the playbacks.

Kwandi and LE1 

RS1 and LE2

Zulu reacted most to the calls of other lions, especially males 

About the Dambwa Lion Release Site

The 6 adults (1 male and 5 females) of the ‘Dambwa Pride’ were captive born and released into the ‘Dambwa Lion Release Site’ in 2011, 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 6 offspring (3 male and 3 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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