It is amazing to see where having good social skills can take you. In Phyre’s case, it has helped this friendly lioness climb to the top of the dominance ladder in the Ngamo Release Site.
Phyre is the Alpha-Female of the Ngamo pride. Recently, our researchers have taken the opportunity to evaluate some of the data that has been collected over the preceding few months and look at how relationships among the pride members are continuing to develop. From this, they can determine the factors that contribute to the Ngamo dominance scale.
An aspect of the data that has guided researchers in determining the hierarchal structure of the Ngamo Pride is that of social interactions. This takes into account all greetings (head rubs), mutual grooming and instances of play that occur. These findings have confirmed to us that Phyre holds a high place in the pride, and this is how she does it: Phyre spends a large amount of her time being social. Over the past 18 months, she has initiated 612 social interactions, and she received 802 in return. This positive response from other pride members and their willingness to initiate interaction with Phyre show us how secure her position is in the pride.
Further evaluation of this data has produced even more interesting results; as it has been found that not only can we see the reasons for Phyre’s dominance, but also the fundamental role she plays in regard to the cohesion within the pride. We have concluded this by observing that Phyre very frequently engages in prolonged bouts of social licking.
It is not just her willingness to greet and groom her pride members that helps her maintain her alpha role, but also who it is that she displays this social behaviour with. It seems that Phyre’s secret to keeping the pride together is that she has become a friend to everyone. Phyre’s behaviour is not partial to social ranking – as she is not only social towards the higher ranking females such as Ashanti, Kenge and AT1, but also with much lower members such as Kwali and Nala. In fact, Kwali and Nala may have found it difficult to maintain a position in the pride at all if it wasn’t for the ‘friendship’ that Phyre displays towards both of them. In fact, it has also been well documented that Phyre and Kwali have always had a strong relationship despite the opposite ends of the dominance scale they are placed and this ‘friendship’ is all down to one special, fundamental lioness.
By doing this, Phyre is effectively keeping the lower ranking females connected to the group where, under other circumstances, they may have found themselves on the periphery or even forced out of the pride. So although it sometimes seems that Phyre has not really been doing much as we watch her graciously recline next to her pride members, in actual fact she is quietly and dominantly keeping the Ngamo pride together.
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