In a different light

23 04 2011

Our research team piled on the layers this morning (22nd) as they headed out under the stars for an early morning research session (4-6am). Within a few minutes of arriving in Ngamo, numerous glowing red eyes were spotted in the distance of the Amboseli area. We crept closer and identified all our girls huddled close together for warmth whilst AT1 did her best to try and wake everyone up!

Since the loss of Kenge’s cubs we have been keeping a close eye upon her behaviour, specifically towards Athena and AT1. In the wild, mothers who bring cubs to the pride of similar ages will form a crèche. This is primarily done to defend cubs from infanticidal non-pride males, but another benefit is that of allo-suckling. This is when cubs suckle from females other then their own mother to improve their chances of survival. It had been considered previously that this seeming co-operation to raise cubs may have been one reason why lions formed prides, however study has shown this behaviour in a different light; that a cub is able to get sufficient nutrients from their own mother, and mother’s would prefer to suckle only their own cubs. It is therefore the cubs themselves, in a form of parasitism, that are taking advantage of resting females (maybe after a long night’s hunting) to obtain milk.

As AT1 snuck between the females she abruptly disturbed Kenge. Kenge sat up immediately, growling with irritation at being woken, then continued to rest amongst the pride. As she drifted off we observed AT1 begin to suckle from Kenge. With the loss of her own cubs being a recent event Kenge is still producing milk. The act of AT1 suckling from her may in fact induce further lactation to; AT1’s benefit.

We found the pride again later in the day taking shade in the thickets of Amboseli. Our hearts went out to the little cub. As the pride slept, she did her best to keep herself entertained, but the expression on her face indicated boredom had finally set in, and she too eventually fell asleep upon a termite mound.

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One response

23 04 2011
Joyce Kinton

AT 1 needs a creche I think !!!
Bless her she needs rest too !
I imagine she will grow up to be a little character !
Its lovley to see the changes in her and how her “Aunts” deal with her !!!
Please come back soon David and co ? xx

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