Social interactions are one of the most interesting aspects for the research team to observe within the Ngamo pride.
Recently we have been witnessing Phyre and Athena indulging in a lot of social grooming, suggesting the two share a strong bond.
On Thursday (11th August) the team found the pride on their first zebra kill in the newly burnt area of the release site. Belly size and carcass consumption suggested that that the kill had been made during the night and that all members of the pride had already fed. Both Phyre and Athena were in need of some serious grooming with blood and ash covering their faces. It wasn’t long before the pair moved off together and started to clean each other up. This social grooming serves a dual purpose of allowing the lionesses to be groomed in areas that they themselves cannot reach and also reaffirm social bonds between individuals.
Of the lions most likely to initiate a social interaction Phyre and Athena are 2nd and 3rd with 406 and 405 observed interactions initiated by them since release respectively. Only Narnia initiated more at 447 with Nala a close 4th with 404.
Of the lions most likely to be the recipient of a social interaction Phyre is clearly at the top of the list with 561; the next highest being Ashanti at 433. Athena is 3rd amongst the females at 315 (Milo getting 355)
Athena and Phyre are clearly members of the inner circle when it comes to the social dynamics within the pride, but also have a close kinship to each other given the high level of their interactions levelled at each other.
On the opposite end of the scale is Kwali. Other than Milo who, as a male, very infrequently initiates a social interaction, Kwali is easily the least likely lion to initiate social behaviours. And she is also least likely to be the recipient. And recently the team have noticed that the other lions do not accept a fair number of the few social interactions she does try and initiate. Even lowly ranking Nala and Narnia have started to rebuff her advances. On Thursday the team witnessed a couple of occasions where Nala bared her teeth at Kwali as she started to approach, and both Nala and Narnia would not allow Kwali to feed on the kill when they were feeding.
Could this be the start of a possible change in the pride dominance system, with Kwali falling below Nala and Narnia? Only time will tell.