Choosing Favorites
January 4 2017

With the new 2016 social dynamics chart complete, it is obvious that some pride members are not shy about picking favorites.

Social dynamics within the Dambwa pride are constantly shifting.  Thankfully, after a review of all data from 2016, all members of the Dambwa pride are in good standing with each other; however, certain members have chosen their personal favorites.

Dambwa pride social dynamics 2016

Previous Dambwa pride social dynamics from 2015

While some relationships have remained similar to 2015, most have changed.  With the rise of RS2 and the aging sub-adults, the adults are starting to take a bigger interest in bonding with their younger comrades. Additionally, both Rusha and Leya seem to have chosen a clear favorite child.  We can see that RS3 is Rusha’s favorite offspring by receiving the thickest line of all the RS sub-adults.  The only lion with a stronger bond to the most dominant female is Leya.  RS3 is also gaining rank within the dominance hierarchy of the pride, surpassing both Kwandi and Kela since 2015.  

Rusha grooming RS3

Rusha was not the only mother happy to choose a favorite child.  LE2 takes the prize as Leya’s best mate and Leya often flaunts this mother-daughter bond by grooming or following LE2.  Since Leya has demonstrated repeatedly to be a fantastic hunter, LE2 is lucky to have such a skilled mother and the team hopes that Leya will teach LE2 some of her hunting tricks, as gaining these skills that would surely prove valuable upon release into the wild.

Leya with LE1 and LE2

In comparison to 2015, the three sub-adult males have skyrocketed their relationships over the past year.  In fact, the trio have a stronger bond than the three sub-adult females.  Forming a coalition could be a piece of cake if the trio continues to follow their current trend.  Apart from Zulu, RS2 is most bonded with LE3.  Since LE1 and LE3 are nearly always together, the team was intrigued to see that LE3 was more associated with RS2 over his own brother.  What shocked the team most this year was how much RS2 and Rusha’s relationship has changed.  In 2015, RS2’s strongest bond was with his mother, but in 2016 his relationship with Rusha is one of the weakest within the Dambwa pride.  What is most interesting is that Rusha is the most dominant female.  Perhaps RS2 is following in his father’s footsteps, since Zulu is least bonded with Rusha of all the adult females.  Even without this strong bond, Zulu and Rusha continue to maintain a tightly knit pride. RS2 could simply be mirroring the relationship of his parents.  The team is excited to see if RS2 and Rusha’s relationship will shift and start to grow or if it will continue to wane.

LE3 and RS2

RS1 and LE1

Increasing his bond with his leading lady, Zulu continues to choose Kwandi over all other members of the pride.  Demonstrated by the thickest line, Zulu and Kwandi have the strongest bond within the pride. Loma seals the position as Zulu’s runner up followed by Kela.  Zulu’s bond with his son RS2 increased dramatically since last year; however, his relationships with LE1 and LE3 seemed to decrease slightly. Although least dominant within the pride, LE2 steals Zulu’s affection as his favorite daughter.  Loma seems to agree with Zulu as her favorite sub-adult is LE2 as well.  Contrary to the rest of the pride, LE1 and RS1 do not seem to have clear favorites. LE1 has nearly equal relationships with most members of the pride and RS1 mirrors her male counterpart.  Although the pride normally seems to take an interest in RS1’s actions, she does not have a strong bond with any other member.  In particular, her relationship to Kela is the weakest in the pride.

Zulu and Kwandi

With so many changes from last year and even from the middle of 2016, the team is intrigued to find out what changes await Dambwa in 2017.  The team is eager to witness how the pride grows and matures in the upcoming year and even more excited to see how Zulu, Rusha, and RS2 lead the pride into the new year.


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.

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