“You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
This isn't neccessarily the most incredible image of a male lion, but I was going through some of my older images and stumble onto this image. I sat for a while, reminiscing and remembering the whole sighting I had that afternoon and evening with this lion.
That lead me to my next thought, what is it about a male lion that sands out to me, what makes this incredible animal so unique?
No matter who you speak too, individuals will always say how impressive male lions are, their shear size alone makes them look fierce. The mane creates, to me, like a warriors mask, to make the lion look bigger.
The purpose of a male lions mane isn't to have a nice pillow to sleep on(considering they sleep 70% - 80% of their life) It actually doesn't really suit the areas in which these animals inhabit, summers are extremely warm and you can imagine, it must be like wearing five scarves at once.
Sitting infant of my laptop, starring at this image I couldn't help but think about a male lions lifetime. Here is this beautiful animal in his prime, but what has he been through before this image was taken and whats going to happen to this male after I had taken the picture.
We can get really deep in this, so I will begin at the beginning...
Out of all the big cats, lions are the only cats that have a social unit called a pride. This may consist of a number of lionesses that generally are all related.
These females are protected by the dominant males of the area, which also vary in size from one individual up to six individuals, obviously the more males the great the chance is that they successfully defend their territory, the bigger there territory is and the more prides they can control is higher. With that comes taxing patrols most evenings, scent marking and roaring. This is done to make sure other males know this area is taken and also serves as a way for them to communicate between each other.
In a pride, the females can give birth to between one and four cubs, the percentage that 4 cubs will survive to adulthood isn't very high due to other predators and new male lions moving into the area.
Wishing the pride and amongst all the cubs, the females will generally stay in the pride, but from a very young age males start to develop a very strong bond with one another. They may be brothers or cousins and may have a couple of months gap in-between them, but this bond starts almost instantly.
These young males are protected by their fathers and the rest of the pride. Being young they are completely dependent on their pride for food. When it comes to suckling, if another female is suckling at the same time, she will allow cubs that are not her own to suckle too, this is know as Alo-suckling and what it does is treasure the bonds between pride members.
Once the young males reach anything between two and a half and three and a half years of age, they are pushed out by their father/s. The reason for this is that they are starting to come into their own and their father/s don't want them around as an added threat.
So you can imagine, being on your own or four of you, its quite a daunting task to head out of the only place you have ever know, whiteout the protection of your pride. This period is pure survival. They have to hunt for themselves, well learn the art of hunting and they will often turn to scavenging from smaller predators such as hyenas and leopards.
They lie in the evenings and listen out for the sounds of other male lions calling and will literally walk in the direction of where they have heard no activity. This is such a dangerous time, they come across any big male lion, they will fear for their lives, they don't have the confidence to defend themselves and this is a period where a large quantity of young males get taken out.
Having said the above, when these males reach between four and a half and five and a half, they start coming into their prime, they build, they big, they confident and they looking for an area to take over and make their own. Generally they will try and focus on an area where the current dominant males are either getting on in age or are less that the number that they are.
They will then move into this area and literally fight the dominant males, often the current dominant males run away, especially in their older age.
This causes huge turbulence in the area, they kill cubs they scent mark they roar and they constantly patrol. Their mission as a male lion is to take out any existing cubs so that the females come into heat faster and they can mate with them and spread their seed, thats what a male lions life is about.
Generally, male lions will hold their territory for anything between three to 6 years and they then will face the wrath of younger, stronger, fitter males coming in and taking over.
A large portion of the time we spend with these cats they are sleeping and not doing very much, but don't be mistaken. A male lions life is a tough one!
Live by the sword die by the sword.
Until next time,