Lions in the Wild: Fierce Yet Gentle

Most animals fear people regardless of how large or potentially dangerous they are. They want to be left in peace.

The future of lions holds in the balance. Once the most widespread mammal on earth after man, lions are now believed to number 25,000. The problem is that lions and humans want the same thing-real estate. A prime lion territory in Maasai Mara measures 50 to 100 square kilometers and offers ambush sites, access to water, shade of trees and bushes, and somewhere safe to raise young.

Being a lion is tough. Half of all cubs die before maturity. One scientific study estimated up to 3,000 copulations each surviving yearling. Yet there’s a beautiful clarity to the way lions live- the only social feline among 38 species of wild cats. To be a lion is to know your place!

Even the smallest cubs- eight weeks old will fight for the right to feed at a kill snarling and growling and clawing to underline their intent.

Each pride is founded on a group of female relatives: sisters, half-sisters, cousins, mothers, aunts, grandmothers, great-grandmothers. This powerful alliance owns the pride’s territory, a heritage passed through the generations and defended tooth and claw.

There are no well defined leaders despite the differences in character: some lionesses are bolder and more aggressive, the first to act when danger threatens, while others are gentler and more placid, but all will fight when they have to, and all are capable of hunting alone as well as collectively.

Lionesses enjoy the company of relatives, identify each other by voice and smell, grooming and playing with unbridled enthusiasm and joy. This reflects bonds forged at birth between female siblings and cousins raised in a creche by mothers who nurture and protect them communally


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