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Leaving the pride

Organisation of a pride

Lion prides are composed of related females, and unrelated males. Although prides can be large in very prey-rich areas, with the typical pride numbering about 13 lions in the Serengeti (Tanzania) and Kruger (South Africa) National Parks, in most areas prides average four to six adult lions.

An adult female surrounded by her juvenile and sub-adult cubs.

An adult female surrounded by her juvenile and sub-adult cubs.
Ruaha lion pride

Females at the core

Female cubs will remain in the same pride for the rest of their life - because of this, females in a pride are normally all related, descending from females that have lived in the same area for generations.

A typical pride scene: multiple generations of females, all related, and a younger male cub.

Leaving the pride

Male offspring, on the other hand, remain in the pride until sexual maturity is reached (26 – 35 months), at which point they are kicked out of the pride. Both the females and the dominant male (or males) can play a part in this event, which occurs so that the young males do not mate with related females, thus preserving genetic diversity.

Leaving the pride
A pride of their own

A pride of their own

Once kicked out, the young male lions adopt a nomadic lifestyle within territories of established prides, often forming coalitions with other related or, occasionally, unrelated males, and eventually competing with established pride males for territory. Although most of the time male lions will eventually take over a pride from a weaker, older, male, some can spend their whole lives living a nomadic and solitary lifestyle.

The role of our research to help dispersing males

One of the goals of our research is to better understand the challenges large carnivores face living in landscapes shared with humans and their livestock. The presence of humans and livestock on the landscape causes lions to make behavioural adjustments (e.g. running away or hiding from people, hunting only at times when people are least active, or avoiding certain high risk areas) to avoid being killed by people that could be energetically costly. These adjustments may be hardest to make for young dispersers, who are often alone, inexperienced, and forced to use sub-optimal habitats with higher human and livestock densities. 

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