The Circle of Love
May 11 2018

As temperatures in the early mornings and evenings in Zambia have started to drop, research sessions with the Dambwa pride are becoming a little more eventful.  As anyone who has visited the pride over the past few months will tell you, recent research sessions have been quite sleepy and restful.  This increase in activity doesn’t actually mean the lions are moving around the site more, but there certainly has been an increase in socialising and self-grooming.

On the 30th of April, the pride were found in one of their current favourite resting places and the research team got to work collecting data.  The lions looked to have already completed their morning movements and had settled down to rest for the next few hours at least.  As the day started to warm up, the lions moved themselves between sun and shade to maintain the perfect body temperature and to grab some prime ‘real estate’ before anyone else stole their perfect shady spot!

The pride resting in a shady spot

As Kwandi moved from her resting place, she filled a gap between Rusha and Leya, pausing to greet them both before she sat down.  This close proximity, and the initiation of social interactions, created perfect conditions for a bout of social grooming.  Kwandi groomed Rusha.  Rusha groomed Kwandi.  Loma groomed Kwandi.  Kwandi groomed Loma.  Not wanting to miss out, Kela rolled over and ended up with her head in the middle of the other lions to join in the ‘circle of love’.  As each female groomed the next in line, the circle went clockwise, sometimes anti-clockwise and, now and again, two lions focused on each other at the same time.

Kela grooming Kwandi grooming Rusha grooming Loma! 

Kwandi and Loma grooming Rusha 

This circle of love lasted for 11 minutes, with each lioness looking to be enjoying it as much as the others. Loma is a selectively social female who usually targets Rusha and Leya, but on this particular day, she was more than willing to strengthen her relationships with females of smaller stature; Kela and Kwandi.  Watching this prolonged social bonding warmed the research team’s hearts and, as you can see by Kela’s face, she was in heaven too!

Kela enjoying attention from Kwandi and Loma


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.

Support the African Lion Rehabilitation & Release into the Wild Programme

  • To make a donation or to fundraise on our behalf click here.
  • To meet the pride as a volunteer, intern or facilitated research student click here.
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