- From: Namiri Plains, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
From a distance, my driver spotted 2 male lions walking across the plains. Through the binoculars, they looked like stunning blond males. Big boys with flowing blond manes.
Because it was very wet and muddy, it took us about 15-20 minutes to circle around to find them.
But at first, we didn't find them. We found a beautiful lion with a little bit of black on his mane with the remnants of a kill. (I refer to him as the black-maned male for ease through the rest of this article.)
It was obvious that he didn't make the kill himself as the carcass was almost gone and he didn't have the huge belly that would have indicated a large meal. So many questions remain unanswered - who made the kill? Where is the killer now? How did he get the kill?
We then spotted the 2 blond males further away laying low in the grass. It was obvious the black maned male knew they were there.
The two brothers were closely bonded and they demonstrated that through several greetings of head rubbings while we watched them.
The black maned boy eventually stood up and took a few steps towards the blondies.
He appeared undecided as he looked back at his kill and then back at the interlopers - not sure what to do.
As he approached closer, the blond males displayed submissive behavior.
The behavior of the black-maned male was not overly aggressive and I really had no idea what to expect.
Unfortunately, I switched cameras to get a wider view and the camera I switched to did not have the audio set up correctly, so I missed the vocalizations of the tiff between the lions.
Within 10 minutes of that slight tiff, one of the blond males moved over 1/2 way towards the black-maned male and his prize possession carcass.
The black maned male ate a little bit and watched the blond male a little bit.
After about 7 minutes, the other blond male joined the first one..he was very slow and submissive and the two brothers did a bonding greeting.
10 minutes after the blond lion closed the distance - he made his move. His brother quickly joined him.
The lions continued to feed on the carcass with a little bit of tension. The original black-mane male laid on the carcass to try to keep it from the others but a bit of tug of war happened.
The hyenas came to wait their turn and so did the vultures.
We left while they were still feeding fairly harmoniously.
General Lion Behavior during a "meal"
Lions are notoriously possessive around their kill. A male lion much more so than any other.
Females generally make the kill (although males are certainly capable of making their own and often do). If a male is in the area when a female(s) make a kill, he will come running in and chase the females off the kill.
Sometimes, the males will let young cubs eat, sometimes not.
When the male has his fill, he will then allow the females and the older cubs to eat.
Male lions are also very territorial. They will often fight to the death to hold their territory and aggressively keep intruders out of their territory.
When a male is too young or too old or just not experienced enough to hold its own territory, he will be a nomad - the nomads stay on the outskirts of other lions territories and try to survive until they can fight to gain a territory or until they die.
I'm not familiar with the lions in this region so I have no idea who any of them are or if there is any relation between the three of them.
Based on the behavior witnessed over the hour we sat with them, we had a few guesses.
- They were all nomads - the 2 blond boys together and the black-maned one alone and therefore there was no territory dispute
- a father with 2 sons that were not together but tolerated
I will never know the real reasons behind what transpired. It was really interesting to witness to the unusual behavior.
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2 Replies to “A Lion’s Dilemma: Witnessing the Complex Behavior of an Older Male Lion Who Reluctantly Shares A Kill with Two Other Males”
Lisa: Absolutely wonderful and insightful article with fascinating videos!!!
Thank you so much!