We would like to inform you of some developments in the Dambwa release pride that have led to the decision to remove Temi from the site.
Over approximately the last year-and-a half, Temi's position within the pride has been subject to significant change. Starting in July of last year, during the integration of Rusha's cubs into the pride, Temi began spending long periods of time on her own. This situation changed once more in the last few months of 2013 when she was often found with Rusha and the RS cubs, who were then approaching 6-months of age. By March/April of this year she seemed to be in the presence of the wider pride more frequently. Despite some initially hostility from some of the lions at her more regular appearance, by May Temi was increasingly observed in association with the pride and for several months thereafter. Whilst not interacting as much as we would expect, she seemed to be going through the process of re-establishing bonds.
To put the scale of the change of the pride's dynamic into some perspective, social network analysis of social data (greetings, social licking, play) illustrates the change in the pride's social structure. In the below socio-grams the nodes represent the lions (with TE = Temi, ZU = Zulu, etc...). The number along the line represents strength of relationship (the higher the number the stronger the relationship), the thickness of the line and the size of the arrow-head also represents strength of relationship. The first snap shot (Figure 1) of the pride's dynamic is taken from data collected over the entirety of 2012 (prior to any cubs being born into the pride). Here we can see that, while not the strongest, Temi has good relations with all pride members, most notably Kela, Loma and Rusha.
Figure 1: Social network analysis of Dambwa pride social interactions over 2012
Looking at the pride's association data (i.e. who is found in who's company during any given observation session) a simple index of association (N AB /(N A + N B + N AB)) can be used for the same time period over 2012.
Figure 2: Index of association for Dambwa pride members 2012. A score of 0 would equal no association, and a score of 1.0 would equal complete association.
Again, Temi's scores show a healthy association with all pride members, on a par with levels of association throughout the group. Skipping forward to the next snap shot we consider August-December 2013, as the RS cubs were being integrated into the pride. It's clear from the second socio-gram that Temi is still interacting with the pride, but to a lesser extent and hardly at all with the cubs (Figure 3).
Figure 3: social network analysis of Dambwa pride interactions over Aug-Dec 2013
Temi's association index scores over the same time period clearly drop dramatically as she begins to spend more time alone. You may also notice that Rusha's drop as she is found away from the pride more often with her cubs, or with her cubs and Temi, in the latter months of the year.
Figure 4: Index of association for Dambwa pride over August - December 2013.
The RS-TE sub-group became especially prominent at the beginning of 2014 when all other pride members were frequenting Leya's den on more-or-less a daily basis, after she denned at the end of January. Meanwhile, Temi, Rusha and the RS cubs would often be found in the East of the site. After some initial hostility, notably from Loma, towards Temi during the introduction of the LE cubs over March-April 2014, things seemed to settle down over May and up until recently Temi was a regular fixture with the pride once more.
Unfortunately, in recent weeks the situation has deteriorated substantially. After several months of encouraging sightings we witnessed Loma chasing Temi away from the group once again at the end of September. Over October Temi started spending prolonged periods of time alone once more. Further, over the start of November the entire pride has been seen chasing Temi, and at times actively looking for her to do so. After several such displays were witnessed the decision was made to remove Temi from the site for her own safety. This was done on Friday 7th November whereby she was darted by our consultant vet and re-housed at the enclosure facilities nearby. She is currently housed on her own next to her sister, Tswana, and half-sister, Rundi. It has obviously been several years since the sisters have seen one another, but we hope that given time to get to know each other again through the fence line of the enclosures she can in future be re-grouped with her sister and Rundi.
We would like to emphasise that Temi only ever showed intolerance towards the cubs' presence when they were younger, and has never been observed trying to harm them. In fact, as recently as the 25th October she was seen escorting one of Leya's 9-month old cubs back to his mother after he became separarted from her while the pride was moving through the site.
It goes without saying that removing a lion from a release site and pride after three-and-a half years (the majority of which time she was an integral member of) is obviously a regrettable decision to have to make. However unfortunate such decisions may be, they are made with the welfare of the animals concerned as the primary concern.