Pre-election race

Pamushana | May 2016

It seems we too have a pre-election situation here in the wild south. These three delegates have their teeth and claws set on the position of presidency.

The way it works with lions is that males band together in what we call a coalition, and then try to take over the rule and mating rights of a pride of lionesses by fighting and driving off or killing the dominant males of the moment.

Within a coalition there is a ‘superdelegate’ that’s more dominant than the others. It’s a winner-take-all situation as he should get the mating rights and the larger portion of kills – but it doesn’t always work out like that and there is much tension and often conflict within these coalitions.

From my observations of these lions I would say that the lion in the first photograph is the wiliest – he’s big, strong, alert and not covered in too many scars. The second is the biggest, with the blackest mane (studies have shown black-maned lions are preferred over blonde-maned lions, by lionesses, possibly because they are stronger genetically). But he has many scars, wounds and injuries. He was limping badly here, and so while he may be the most aggressive he might not be the best at avoiding life-threatening violence. The third is handsome, blonde, hardly scarred and smaller in size and mane length. Who knows – he may end up being the smartest of the lot if the other two injure themselves too severely in a take-over bid.

Their campaign has been a considered one – we’ve watched them grow, bond, become stronger and bolder in their movements. The days when they will run from the dominant males of the other prides are numbered and I suspect it won’t be long before they rule.

One of their prizes could be this lioness from the Hippo pride. She’s a formidable hunter and in her prime. She would be the ideal mother to cubs and with a strong and stable coalition in place to protect the pride for a few years they’d stand the best chance of survival.

I would rather meet the three males on foot than her. Just look at her piercing-right-through-you stare! Lionesses seem far more aggressive than males, in general. They initiate more hunts and stand their ground or charge more readily than males. A lioness is most dangerous when she has cubs and will readily risk her life to protect and save them should she find man or beast is threatening them in any way.