Young male lions grow out their manes and outgrow their pride.
Footage by Rodney Nombekana
It looked to be a routine show of a grisly yet necessary part of the circle of life—a lioness hunted down and killed a zebra for her pride to dine on. Tourists and their guide were a safe distance away, but close enough to see and record a video of the lioness taking down the unfortunate zebra. This was a common sight on safaris, but what happened next was not.
The lioness quickly took down the zebra, and the members of the pride rushed in to join the feast. It was the standard operating procedure for lion prides, but when two young males trotted up to join in, lionesses began to attack them and turn them away. This, of course, is unexpected behavior. The two males were part of the pride, and conceivably related to the lionesses, so why were they attacked and kicked out?
The beginnings of adulthood are tough for male lions.
It turns out that the tourists and their guide witnessed something that often occurs in lion prides, but is rarely witnessed by humans. According to Rodney Nombekana, the safari guide, the two young males looked to be at the age in which lions get kicked out of the pride they were born in.
Male lions can't stay forever with their first pride. Eventually, they have to leave the pride they were born in. Every young male lion, at the age of two to three years old, goes through this rite of passage. The young male must now find his own way and establish his own pride, typically by fighting another male from another pride and taking his place.
The social dynamics of lion prides are quite interesting.
Female lions, meanwhile, undergo no such rite of passage. They stay with the pride they were born in, and all lionesses in a pride are related to each other.
It's also telling that the two young males in the video were kicked out their pride right after the zebra kill. It was high time they got kicked out anyway, but the presence of food might have sped up the process. Possibly, the other lions in the pride didn't want to share with two individuals who were due to strike out on their own anyway.
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