In the shadow of cub hill
September 17 2013

The light was 'electric orange' on the morning of 11th September when the research team found the 'K' sisters; KE3 and KE4, bounding around the dust and sunrays of the camp area.  As usual after a good feed of zebra a few days prior, the sub adults were full of energy; chasing one another back and forth.

KE3 & KE4

As the play session tumbled its way towards waterhole one a squawking din caught KE4’s attention. As the young lioness looked to the sky she spotted dozens of pied cows mobbing what appeared to be a fellow crow that had met its end in the branches of an acacia tree. Like flying bullets the crows swooped and dove at the dead bird providing tantalizing entertainment for KE4. 

All the commotion soon became too much to resist and KE4 threw herself high onto the tree trunk to get closer to the avian frenzy. Meanwhile KE3 gazed into the glowing sunrise at the base of the tree posing for some stunning photographs for the research team. Her sister belly-flopping back to the ground soon interrupted her demure moment however…

KE3 & KE4

The sisters were then left to enjoy the sunrise and crows in hopes of finding the rest of the pride. The research vehicle proceeded to make its way slowly along the edges of Serengeti East to find siblings AS4 and AS5 also admiring the sunset.  The duo also had abundant energy and soon took off for the hills chasing one another. The catch and chase game continued all the way through the Serengeti, past the sleeping Ngamo lionesses they stumbled across, through Masai Mara and into Amboseli. There they met with KE3 and KE4, but the jubilant mood appeared to have passed.

AS5, now at 22 months old is at a pivotal age.  Although not yet fully independent, nor sexually mature, neither is he the little cuddly cub once adored and is beginning to receive dominance based rebuffs from his pridemates. When approaching 2.5 to 3.5 years old male cubs will often be ousted from their natal pride (southern African lions oust their boys later than their eastern African cousins) - a natural progression to prevent inbreeding amongst pride members. The Ngamo pride are beginning to show some shifts in behavior towards AS5 and most interestingly AS5 is also demonstrating signs that he is preparing for life as a powerful adult male.

AS5 & AS4

AS5 & AS4

After joining the K sisters in Amboseli, AS5 confidently strode to KE4 who bowed her head in submission and bared her teeth. AS4, oblivious to the exchange in body language, amused herself with some fallen monkey fruits whilst AS5 diverted his attentions to KE3 resting out of the research team’s sight. Suddenly KE3 sprinted south through Amboseli with AS5 pursuing. On seeing this, KE4 again bared her near full sized canines and followed the pair. AS4 heard the action and also followed the trail. The chase was brief with KE3 quickly turning to stand her ground, albeit submissively, to AS5 who, with a defensive posture, blocked her route. AS4 caught up to the other 3 and perhaps in support of her brother’s attempt to demand dominance began to circle and bully KE4. After a few harmless spits and spats the two half sisters settled down and all 4 sub-adults called a truce with a communal nap in the shadow of cub hill.

These tiffs are rare but provide our research team a fascinating insight into the shifts in behaviour that all sub-adult lions experience. The foursome are finding their places as independent pride members; who is more dominant, who is a leader, who is more social? Perhaps this behavior is a sign that Ngamo has seen the last of the A and K cubs and now hosts the era of the new young A and K sub-adults? 

Update on Narnia.  Over the past three months since Narnia experienced a slipped disk she has continued to improve.  She is now quite mobile, however movement is clearly still uncomfortable with one back leg still not fully recovered and lacking strength.  The lion management team at Antelope Park are keeping a close eye on her, and liaising with the vets.  We obviously need to make a decision on whether she will be able to rejoin the pride in the release site.  Our major concerns surround whether the problem will recur if Narnia is running around Ngamo chasing zebra, and whether the pride will accept her return.  We are also keeping a close eye on the behaviour of her sister Nala who remains in the site.  So far it appears that Nala is coping well with the absence of her kin, and has been bonding more closely with alpha female Phyre, Kenge and also with AT1.


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