Crazy for Cubs!
Are you Crazy for Cubs? Read on to learn more about their behaviour, how collaring for coexistence supports them and finally, our brand new Kids for Cubs clothing!
Growing up in a lion pride
Lion Cubs are some of the cutest residents we know, but how much do you know about their lives, growing up from tiny fur balls into the healthy subadults we see roaming the field? Well, let’s start at the very beginning! Following a gestation period of around four months, a pregnant lioness will leave her pride and retreat into a thick impenetrable habitat to give birth. Here, she keeps her vulnerable cubs safely hidden for up to six weeks before they are introduced to the rest of the pride.
Newborn Lion hiding in the bushes, by Antonia Leckie. Lion cubs are born with blue eyes that slowly turn to amber.
Upon arrival, other lactating females in a pride are very welcoming to newcomers; they will suckle each other's cubs regularly for the first 6-7 months, showing no favouritism for their own offspring. This generosity may seem strange, but as lionesses in the pride are highly related, each female enhances the survival of her own genes by helping to raise her relative's offspring. This communal suckling behaviour has therefore been selected over time as it increases the chance that an individual lions’ genes will be passed on to the next generation.
Related adult females within a pride tend to give birth at similar times, with adults synchronising their fertility cycles so that they can all raise their young together. Mothers can therefore rely on one another to suckle and protect the young. Predation is a big threat to vulnerable newborns, but there is safety in numbers; there are so many cubs a predator can eat at one time! Even still, over half of African lion cubs don’t make it past their first year. When young male lions take over a pride, they will challenge another male for control and kill all the cubs, bringing the females into estrus again and maintaining the synchronisation.
Whilst growing up in the protection of the maternal pride, lion cubs spend most of their day playing, wrestling and stalking each other through the landscape. Although it may sound like fun and games, this play is vital to help them develop the hunting skills that they will need later in life to support themselves and their future pride. As they grow bigger and stronger, these skills are further developed through joining their mother for hunting trips.
Lion cubs wrestling under the protection of their maternal pride. This behaviour is vital to allow the effective development of hunting skills.
As cubs age into adolescents, females tend to stay in their natal range, only leaving the pride if there is a short supply of food. In contrast, once subadult males reach around 3 years, they will spend more and more time away from their maternal pride, eventually leaving to find territories of their own. These males will have a much better chance of survival if they can stick together in groups called coalitions during this difficult dispersal period when they will have to avoid areas where they are not wanted by people, and territorial male lions wherever lions are still tolerated.
Lion cubs with their mothers, by Chege Amos at Loisaba. Related adult females within a pride tend to give birth at similar times.
Collaring for coexistence
Livestock raised across Laikipia can occasionally become an easy prey target for wild lions on the hunt for food; if they gain entrance to traditional bomas they can predate on large numbers. Collaring for Coexistence is one of the pillars of the Coexistence coop programme, that Lion Landscapes run together with The Peregrine Fund to help halt the decline of lion populations. We deploy and manage specialized lion GPS collars that send us hourly locations for the lions; in each monitored pride one adult lioness is collared, and one adult male in each male coalition.
Access to this lion movement data is given to livestock owners via a user-friendly app developed by Save The Elephants Kenya that maps the lion locations on google earth. Even if livestock owners don’t have the same technology as all of us, almost all of them have access to smartphones and a cell network. The information on lion locations can provide livestock owners with a warning if an individual is nearby, allowing them enough time to scare the individual away and keep their livestock safe. Scaring the lions away with much noise and disturbance is necessary to teach the lions that this area is best avoided in future. Reducing livestock depredation in this way minimises potential retaliatory poisoning events, supporting lion populations to reproduce and stay alive to care for their cubs.
Lioness Labai, collared in 2018 with her 6-month-old cub. 2 years ago, Labai was sadly lost in a snare for bushmeat. Losing a lion in a snare is thankfully a rare event in Laikipia due to collective efforts of landowners, managers and conservation organisations but Labai's death highlights the importance of continued anti-poaching efforts in the area.
Collared lioness Dawn’s cubs at Sosian Lodge.
Kids for Cubs - Shop for your own little cubs and support real-life conservation
Here at Lion Landscapes, we are excited to announce the launch of our new shop shipping to the UK and Europe, where supporters can buy a range of organic and sustainable products for their own little cubs! The perfect birthday present or baby shower gift for any nature and animal lover in the making. All proceeds from every sale go straight to our conservation programmes in the field, supporting real-life conservation efforts to help to save vulnerable African lions whilst protecting community livelihoods in Africa. And you don’t need to be jealous of your little ones for too long... adult products are also on the way, along with a US shop!
Organic Baby Contrasting Bodysuit made from 100% organic cotton.