A Tale of Two Brothers
November 30 2016

As the LE boys near their third birthday, ALERT’s research team is witnessing just how close the two have become.  Data analysis based on the first half of 2016 showed that the brothers did not have a strong relationship at that point.  While they occasionally hung out together, few significant interactions were recorded.  The thin line connecting LE1 and LE3 in the group dynamic chart below illustrates the absence of a strong bond, in comparison to other relationships within the Dambwa pride. 

Since August however, the team has observed a drastic increase in significant social interactions between the brothers.  The pair are regularly found lying on top of each other, sometimes even playing together.  They have also made a habit of lying on other pride members, often using them as pillows.  RS2’s growing mane seems to be the favourite resting spot for LE3, although earlier this month, he decided to go a step further and use Kela as his bed!  While she was sleeping peacefully under a tree, LE3 trotted over to Kela to share the shade.  Searching for a sliver to squeeze himself into, he decided the best spot was not next to Kela, but right on top of her.  His slumber lasted for about five minutes (longer than the team had anticipated), before Kela rose and shook him off.  She inched away; just enough to not touch him, but still remaining in the shade she had rightfully claimed as her own.

LE3 lying on Aunt Kela

Although the brothers look very similar, each has his own distinct physical traits.  LE3’s mane is currently longer than LE1’s, while LE1 is a bit greyer than LE3; a feature he inherited from his darkening father Zulu.  LE3 has striking orange eyes and seems to take after his mother Leya with his orange coloured coat.  Both boys can be extremely lazy, often leaving it to their sisters to investigate anything new that crosses their path. Additionally, they are normally among the last to follow when another member of the pride initiates a movement.



Recently, Leya seems to spend more time with LE1 than she does her other two cubs.  Last week, LE1 was observed greeting his mother with a lick on the ear, before nibbling at her neck in an attempt to remove some ticks, no doubt acquired on one of the prides many journeys through the dense woodlands.  Leya seemed thrilled with this special attention from her son and, once the de-ticking was done, the two relaxed together with LE1’s head resting on his mother’s neck.

LE1 resting with mum Leya

This month, Zulu is continuing his trend of accepting and showing affection to all his sons, even when LE1 and LE3 attempted to steal meat from him after the pride came upon a carcass.  The females are also beginning to respect the LE boys.  This was evident on a recent scavenge opportunity when Leya backed down from her sons as they challenged her over a piece of meat.  The research team is excited to see how the social structure of the Dambwa pride has changed since this time last year, and where the LE boys rank within the dominance hierarchy.  Although they are still young, it is hoped that the pair will continue to strengthen their bond, and eventually form a coalition with RS2. 

About the Dambwa Lion Release Pride

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 males 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.

Please consider supporting our work by making a donationsponsoring a lion in Dambwa Pride, or fundraising on our behalf.  To work with our research team as a volunteer, intern or facilitated research student click here.


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