B is for Boldness, Brains and Braun
July 8 2016

On the afternoon of the 16th of June, the Ngamo pride were resting in Amboseli, close to central road “Route 66”.  The session was seemingly uneventful until all of a sudden something made AS5 jump.  He shot up from his resting position and, as he did, he surprised the females that were blissfully resting beside him.  They quickly responded to him with a ‘woof’; a vocalisation lions often make when startled.  At first the research team couldn’t see what had caused AS5 to react as he did, but his body language indicated that there was something in the grass that he was nervous about.  The team deduced that it was most likely a snake that would cause such behaviour and, sure enough, a snake eventually slithered out of the grass where AS5 had been sitting and disappeared into the grass of ‘Masai Mara’. 

It’s no secret that the ‘A’ females of Ngamo, Ashanti and AS4, are somewhat bolder than their counterparts and so it was of no surprise when AS4 stepped up to investigate what had her brother looking so uneasy.  With her tail in the air, an indication of her inquisitiveness, she gingerly walked around the area the snake was lurking.  It wasn’t long before Phyre took interest and, although she stood in support of AS4, she was a little more sensible and hesitated in investigating a potential danger too closely.  As for AS5, he merely looked on as his sister took the risk, jumping backwards each time the snake moved only to continue her approach and retreat tactics for a little while.  Although it appeared as if AS5, who outsizes his sister greatly, was the scaredy cat of the day, boldness does not always outweigh braun or brains.  Perhaps AS5 and Phyre had the right idea to avoid the snake and AS4 should take a lesson from her ‘brainier’ pride mates on how to avoid danger. 

AS4 doing the approach and retreat dance with the snake

Eventually AS4 lost interest in the snake, but the whole episode had her on high alert and before she had time to sit down something else had caught her attention.  With the long grass obscuring the research team’s view, it was unclear what she was stalking, but within moments she leapt into the grass to try and capture whatever it was.  Unfortunately she emerged empty-mouthed and gave up for the day, taking her place among the rest of the pride as the sun began to set. 

AS4 still on high alert

The morning of the 23rd was cold and windy and the pride was huddled together making the most of each other’s body heat.  The cold weather wasn’t getting the better of everyone though; AS4 and AS5 had play on their minds.  As their pride mates snoozed through the sunrise the playful siblings began a game of rough and tumble, rolling on the ground together and grabbing each other in a headlock.  Their frivolity caught the attention of KE3 and, breaking from her usual behaviour of avoiding AS4 and AS5 when they are being rowdy, she decided to join them in play.  The research team were delighted to see KE3 make such a positive movement.  Although it may have been one of the first occasions this has happened, it’s a step in the right direction regarding, not just KE3’s relationship with often ‘bullying’ AS5, but also her relationship with AS4 as they get nearer to a future together upon release into the wild. 

Playtime for AS4, KE3 and AS5

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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