Simply Being Sociable
March 22 2018

February was a month of social interactions for the Dambwa pride, as the wet season well and truly set in following a relatively dry December and start to the new year.  This weather meant that the lions were usually hidden in the long spear grass, which was booming with growth, and in dense thicket areas that the research team could not access.  On the occasions the pride could be observed, it was apparent that the wet weather was a precursor to plenty of social interactions, primarily grooming!

The 7th of February in particular was a day of frequent social behaviour within the pride.  The lions were found hiding in a dense thicket area to protect themselves from being drenched by the frequent downpours. Fortunately for the research team, they could still be observed.  The lions were busy strengthening the bonds between their pride members, which meant that the research team was busy collecting data!  In a two-hour research session, the pride exhibited 169 social grooming interactions, 56 social greeting interactions, and 26 social play interactions.  Rusha and Leya were the recipients of the majority of the interactions from other females within the pride, particularly the larger females and the female offspring.  Kela bucked this trend however, choosing to direct most of her social interactions towards LE1.

Kwandi in the rain

Kwandi and Leya greet each other...

...before setlling down for a lengthy grooming session

The social behaviours of the pride were occurring minute-by-minute for most of the research session, meaning that there was little time the whole pride was at rest.  On one such rare occasion, the lions had laid down their heads and everything appeared to be peaceful and quiet.  That was until the LE boys, who were laying back to back, decided to roll over on top of the other, resulting in an amusing play fight.  They were kicking their legs, biting each other’s manes, biting each other’s legs, and of course letting out the odd growl.  LE1 and LE3 continue to demonstrate the strength of their coalition bond, which was clearly evident on this particular day with 41 social interactions between the pair and 15 minutes of uninterrupted play.

LE1 with a wet mane

LE1 grooming LE2 

Analysing social interactions between pride members helps us identify the strength of a relationship that particular lions have with each other, which can assist in mapping the dynamics and social hierarchy of the pride as a whole.  

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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