Daddy’s Boys
October 10 2016

As the Dambwa sub-adults grow older, pride dynamics amongst the males are constantly shifting.  With three growing sons, Zulu has his work cut out for him.  Their rapid development provides not just the three boys, but also their father, with a steep learning curve.  Whilst on the one hand Zulu is trying to keep his adventurous sons in line within the dominance structure of the pride, on the other, he may also be showing the three boys what it takes to rule a pride.

This time last year Zulu often kept RS2 at a little distance from the pride, maintaining a watchful eye on his eldest son.  However, the relationship between Zulu and RS2 has developed very positively.  Often, now, the research team enters the release site to find Zulu and RS2 relaxing together.  On September 6th the team witnessed just how far this budding bond has truly come.  

Family resemblance; Zulu and his son, RS2

After Zulu and RS2 treated the team to a brief but significant interaction, in which Zulu greeted his eldest son, followed by a quick play together, the pride heard an unfamiliar noise.  Both Zulu and RS2 stood up, alert and focused in the direction of the strange sound, presenting a united territorial defense.  

Zulu greets RS2

The social interaction between the pair continues on another occasion

Although RS2 still has some growing to do before matching the immense size of his father, the team was stunned by the father-son resemblance.  The two standing guard together is quite an intimidating and breathtaking sight.  Secure that no danger threatened the pride, the pair settled down together again under some nearby shade.  With RS2’s mane developing nicely, at first glance the team can sometimes mistake the two handsome lions.

What really has our researchers excited is that recently RS2 has not been the only son in Zulu’s good graces. His younger male offspring LE1 and LE3 who have always maintained a strong brotherly bond, are slowly beginning to join this father-son party.  Zulu’s bonds with his offspring are ever changing, but currently the boys seem to be getting special appreciation and attention from their father.  The male quad form an impressive group that few lions would challenge, especially now that LE1 has been recently practicing his roar.

Zulu greets LE1

Our analysis of the social and dynamic data supports what we are seeing in this father-son bonding, as frequent positive social interactions are evident between the four males; including often choosing to sit together.  Although Zulu’s closest bonds overall continue to be with his favourite females, Kwandi and Loma, the sub-adult males are getting closer and closer to his inner circle.

The development of these bonds between the father and sons is intriguing, and one that we will watch over the coming months.  A similar development in the relationship between Milo and his only son, AS5, has been observed in the Ngamo release pride.  These observations offer some interesting insights into pride life and lion politics.  The team is excited to see how these relationships develop in the upcoming months and hope these bonds continue to strengthen, bringing the pride even closer together.  

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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