The King, the Queen, and the Prince
December 19 2016

Whilst Zulu and Rusha claim their positions as King and Queen of the Dambwa pride, RS2 is beginning to gain some status of his own.

As 2016 draws to a close, the research team combined all data recorded over the year as an indicator of any change since 2015 in the dominance system of the Dambwa Pride.  Below you can see the graph from 2015, which clearly shows Zulu being the most dominant lion overall, with Leya being the most dominant female.       

Social interactions in 2015

Even though in 2015, RS2 had the third highest differential between initiated and received greetings, his total social interaction did not surpass that of Rusha.  As such, the team was hesitant to place him above his mother in terms of dominance. 

Social interactions in 2016

Now that we have the 2016 graph, the team can definitively say that RS2 comes second only to Zulu within the Dambwa pride.  Rusha has also reclaimed her role as queen of the Dambwa pride following a period of rule by Leya.  Interestingly, the total number of social interactions has significantly decreased in comparison to 2015, and overall the differentials are less scattered.  This can possibly be attributed to the growing sub-adults who are gaining rank in the pride.

Rusha greeting Zulu

Overall, from 2015 to 2016, Zulu maintains his rule over the Dambwa pride and is sometimes harsh with his laws.  Zulu can be very intolerant of any lion sleeping too close to him, or taking any of his share of meat during feeding opportunities.  LE3 has experienced Zulu’s wrath firsthand when he chose to lay a little too close to his sprawled-out father, or attempted to take a piece of meat Zulu was saving for later.  After a quick chase or swat to the face, LE3 recognized his mistakes and backed off.

Zulu seems more patient with his daughters than he is with his sons, although RS2 has become a category of his own.  The team has noticed a slight shift in behavior from the sitting dominant male, giving more greetings to RS2 than he is receiving.  RS2 has even growled at his father a few times, as if to tell Zulu that he did not appreciate the attention.

Zulu with RS2

Being the biggest female, Rusha has the bite to match her bark.  She is a very muscular lion, and the only female with the strength and attitude to challenge Zulu or RS2.  The research team has witnessed Zulu standing on top of Rusha, as she attempted to enjoy a piece of meat that Zulu had decided would be better suited for himself.  Rusha mounted about five minutes of relentless struggling before she ceded to the king. Rusha proves she is an invaluable member of the pride with her excellent tracking skills.  During most scavenge opportunities, Rusha and her two daughters RS1 and RS3 are the first to find the carcass.  The RS sub-adults are lucky to have a mother with such keen skills.  This knowledge gained from their mother, could mean the difference between life and death in the wild.  The rest of the pride is smart to follow Rusha when something catches her eye.  Zulu always takes an interest when Rusha diverts her attention to something. With Zulu and Rusha invested, the rest of the pride is sure to follow.

Rusha with RS2

Rusha and Leya continue to maintain a strong correlation.  In 2015, Leya was the most dominant female but this year Rusha took the crown.  Even so, there do not seem to be any hard feelings between the two mothers - often grooming each other or relaxing together.

RS2 has two very strong, dominant, and intense parents.  Although he still backs down from other lions from time to time, we predict that within the next few months RS2 will continue becoming more dominant and taking a more active role in the pride.  He is already bigger than his mother, but does not seem to have her domineering personality - yet.

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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