When discovering a pride of lions in the wild, such encounters are usually when the pride is at rest and relaxed; “poured out like honey in the sun” as Lindbergh put it in 1966.
Schaller noted that visitors often assume that this is because the pride is resting after a night prowling in search of prey; but that this is not quite accurate as lions spend most of the night resting as well. Following a study of activity patterns in lions of the Serengeti he concluded that lions rest 20 – 21 hours a day; around 83- 87% of their life spent dormant.
A similar study is underway on the Ngamo release pride to discover whether their activity levels are common to wild lions within their protected semi-wild environment.
Having taken 3120 data points to date we marked each type of behaviour as either active or inactive. The result for the whole pride shows that our lions are, in general, more active than expected; scoring 78% on the dormancy scale. But what is interesting is the great variation between individual lions within the pride.
Laziest of the lot is Nala, Kenge and Milo. Given the choice these three lions can be found passed out 83% of the time. Narnia and Kwali are little better 82% and 81% respectively of their time spent asleep.
Slightly ahead of that is Athena coming in at a much more active 71% of her time in the land of nod.
And that leave us with Phyre & Ashanti. Phyre managed a respectable 69% of her time asleep. But the most active lion in the pride is Ashanti who, having been a playful lion her whole life spends only 66% of her time dreaming of whatever lions dream about. Should we read anything into the fact that it is the three largest females in the pride that are the most active?
So if you were thinking, as I am sure many of you were, what life is like for an ALERT researcher studying the life and times of this pioneering lion pride? Well, mostly it’s this! for hour after hour after hour…
Or as Craig Packer put it regarding his research in Tanzania “I had found lion research to be much less exciting than I’d expected – hours and hours of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer boredom, waiting for the lazy beasts to do something,”
But then of course the lions awaken from their slumber and march off into the distance. The thrill is to ask where are they going? And what will they do when they get there? That is the joy of watching wild animals in their natural environment; the chance to see those rarely glimpsed behaviours.
For your chance to experience following the pride visit the volunteer, intern and study pages on this very blog.