An alliance between five young male lions is brewing close to Khwai Tented Camp in Botswana.
These teenage lions have been kicked out of their pride by their father as it is now time for them to go out on their own. Their father, the dominant male of their birth pride, has ousted them as they are coming into maturity and breeding age and he wants to lower the risk of inbreeding within his pride.
Leaving a pride can be extremely stressful for the young males, as they have to learn how to hunt for themselves and survive on their own. This is why young males often form coalitions; there is more safety in numbers when looking for females, food and territory.
The video below shows one of the more intriguing behaviours of lions – a phenomenon known as the Flehmen response. The lions curl back their lips and inhale with their necks stretched and heads thrown back. This behaviour facilitates the transfer of pheromones and other scents into the vomeronasal organ, which helps the lions read the area – who the territory belongs to, the reproductive status of females, etc.
This response is basically the lions reading the ‘Bush Telegraph’, and using that knowledge to either avoid or confront resident male lions, in a bid to claim their own females and territory.
One of the most famous lion coalitions was Cecil and Jericho in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe, near Somalisa Camp. The two lions were famous for their magnificent black manes and tight bond of brotherhood. Cecil was killed by a hunter in 2015, and Jericho died a year later. They are survived by a healthy and flourishing pride, and their sons’ will surely form a coalition pride soon.
Interested in finding out more? Read here about the fascinating dynamics of one of the worlds most beloved prides of lions.