All she needs is love
September 12 2017

As the dry season starts to take effect in Livingstone, the shrubs and grassland of the Dambwa Release site are beginning to thin and daytime temperatures are on the rise.  The Dambwa pride are seeking shade more than ever during research sessions, resulting in the lions hiding in thickets that have not been utilised in some time.  The Kariba area of the site was a favoured resting area of the pride’s during the end of August with them hiding in the long spear grass or under thick shrubs.  As the shrubs are now thinning, the shade underneath them is becoming smaller, resulting in the pride piling on top of each other - which then causes grumpy faces when Zulu decides to sit on top of somebody else’s head!

A grumpy Loma didn't appreciate being sat on!

The heat and close proximity of the lions has in turn been a perfect mix for some long allogrooming sessions that have incorporated two or even three lions grooming each other in a pile.  Rusha has kept up with her reputation of being the social glue of the pride, as she has been wandering around seeking grooming sessions with different pride members.  On occasion, her proposal of a grooming session has been declined with a fierce response, while other times the recipient of the interaction has remained resting, but the most common response to Rusha’s grooming has been Rusha receiving the interaction back.  On the 26th of August, Rusha moved between members of the pride to groom her daughter RS1, followed by Kela and then by Leya, who unfortunately ignored her interaction.  Undeterred, Rusha quickly moved on to groom Kwandi, who is usually an obliging recipient, resulting in the grooming session continuing for several minutes.

Rusha grooming daughter, RS1

Rusha has been observed initiating grooming sessions with the majority of the pride members, with these interactions ranging from only a few seconds to several minutes.  The research team has seen numerous grooming sessions between Rusha and Kwandi lasting for four minutes, as well as a grooming session three minutes long between Leya and Rusha.  There has even been a grooming session between sub-adult LE2 and Rusha that unusually turned from grooming to play.  The longest grooming session observed within the pride lasted seven minutes between Rusha and her daughter RS1.  Everyone needs some love from their mother every now and again!  Social grooming within a pride tends to be a female-female and female-offspring dominated activity.  This interaction type is extremely important, as it strengthens the bond between two lions.  By observing the social behaviours of lions, the strengths of bonds and dominance system can be analysed.

Daughter RS3's turn for a grooming session with mum

Rusha looking for her next social interaction


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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