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James Tyrrell


James had hardly touched a camera when he came to Londolozi, but his writing skills that complemented his Honours degree in Zoology meant that he was quickly snapped up by the Londolozi blog team. An environment rich in photographers helped him develop the ...

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on Do Lions Have Self-Control?

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Interesting discussion. It is probable that if lions don’t take the oppurtunity presented to them it might be gone. Win or loose.

I would guess that where hunger and need for food often for a crowd could make losing your self control very quickly ! Who knows who or what is creeping up or if it is buffaloes where the herd is. Can’t be easy feeding a crowd in a world of completion. Victoria

James, great blog today. I always enjoy reading your blogs. Keep them coming.

Thanks Joan

Senior Digital Ranger

With roughly 7.6 billion people in the world not to mention the billions that have passed through here already, we can always find an “expert” theorizing in writing as to the lack of intelligence, sentience etc… of animals versus humans. It is the human ego that does so. However taking it straight from the horses, or in this case lion, leopard, wolves point of view, one perceives a much different view from that of a ‘specialist” on animal behavior. It is sort of like someone writing about scuba diving when they don’t know how to swim 🙂 Fellow South African Anna Breytenbach, has wonderful videos on this ability, which we can all do. In one she talks about tracking wolves that had separated a fawn from a herd of deer. The wolves waited until the alpha wolf, while nose to nose decided if it was the fawn’s time or not. It wasn’t and the wolf then pulled his pack off to find another kill. Or her most famous one of her conversation with a black leopard misnamed Diablo who was in a sanctuary and very depressed. She turned it all around for everyone, including the sanctuary owner, with her listening to his needs. When we do understand the sentience of all animals the world opens up for us and we can even call animals in to see them or know where they are by asking. However if we hold them in the space of lacking intelligence or self awareness they will indeed act or continue to be perceived that way and experiences can be happenstance. An interesting idea for a guide or tracker, no? 😉

Hi Johanna,
Thanks for the comments and you raise some interesting comments.
However, just because certain species are on different intellectual levels than others dos not in any way mean they should be accorded a status of lesser worth, and I think that is where a lot of the misunderstanding lies.
We shouldn’t have to perceive animals – I’m talking about any species – as occupying some sort of sentient space simply to accord them or the natural system they occupy more importance.
Whatever my views on the intelligence levels of the various species that occupy this magical place, they all have an important place in the web of nature.
But, sadly not everyone sees things in the same way…

I was going to make the same point as the lioness there, but my example is much more benign and shorter. Directly to the wording used in your supposition, ‘perceive things other than ourselves … or, at least ourselves in other scenarios’. Lion’s lack that ability’ … Ok, well, now that I write it, I can see there is not much point in making an argument without giving one a chance to reword them, because on the literal, they are both kind of silly. But assuming I get the jist of your argument, my example is still valid. It is the house training dogs, pigs, birds. Very clearly making choices based on the future they are imagining. Also, the puzzles worked out by ravens, and octopi. Bees communicating a map to a bounty. Animals dream, they must be aware of why they migrate,i.e. to avoid freezing, and for mating. You don’t think whales anticipate finding a mate? Seems highly likely they do. Family units, elephants returning to graves to mourn. Cats offering food to their owners, how much imagination has to go into that? Perceiving things other than themselves would seem a forgone conclusion, mate.

I agree imagination is a key part of our abilities, but I don’t think it is unique in humans. It seems to me it is like other faculties and systems, it develops, evolves over time. I think that is the case with humans. We have developed not imagination, per se, but Logic. Logic is the faculty, imagination is a skill. It is the skill required to achieve Logic. The more developed the imagination the more scenarios you can simulate in your head. And, I believe it is a snowball effect, because imagining possibilities is a cumulative proposition, imaginings on top of imaginings. .. Have you noticed in the last 20 years, while witnessing the end of starvation, and fall of dictatorships, globally which has been great, there have been changes at home, that don’t get as much attention? Specifically, lower income families/persons seem to be more civilized, or not so low income,( lol, I’m trying not to offend anyone, I certainly am not pretentious, and respect everyone) but, I’ll just say it, better bred than just a few decades ago. Everyone’s value seems to have increased. The reasons for this would seem obvious, it is a trend that has been consuming the world since the Ind. revolution. Simple, we learn, right? Our parents teach us. So knowing the laws of nature work as they do, it is hard not to see any animal teaching its offspring as the beginning of th same process we underwent. Knowledge is Knowledge, and Logic is pure. Animals use logic, but they lack knowledge. This is how information works in the universe.

I believe this approach being the underlying assumption to research is far more useful, but this has been too long already. Thanks


Very well said, thanks for the insightful comments!

Interesting blog James. I guess with all of the cat families it is a hit and miss situation. Always feel bad when a leopard has it’s lunch/dinner stolen by a hyena who did nothing to earn the reward. Guess that is just life in the bush. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. “Food for thought as it were”

No credit for outwitting a leopard? Man, you’re tough.

Your banner picture or the seven lionesses attacking the cape buffalo is amazing!!!

Thanks guys.
Sadly I haven’t seen anything like that recently; it’s an older photo of the Sparta pride bringing down an old cow.

How are the three young lions who were separated from their pride??

Hi Beverly,

Which lions are you referring to?

We stayed at Pioneer camp about three weeks ago, Alfred and Terrance were are guides, there were three young mangy lions who had been separated from their pride. On our drives we saw then twice, just waiting for their Mom to find them. That is all i can tell you.

Hi Beverly,

OK I’ll chat with Alfie and ask him. If they didn’t look in such good condition they was most likely a few of the Styx pride…

Thank you for this “food for thought”. Your blogs of late have been fascinating and thought-provoking, appreciated by your readers.

I watched the third episode of Serengeti last night that is a wonderful documentary following the lives of specific animals through the four seasons in Tanzania’s Serengeti. Highlighted is a lioness with three cubs, bundles of tawny fluff and full of energy, always hungry. It’s the migration, and for predators a plethora of meal choices- yet, it was observed Kali tried for a wildebeest but was almost crushed in the quest for a meal… fast forward, she tried again the next day, using a different strategy and was successful! This episode brought your blog to mind…… lions are smart in knowing their limits and retreating to plan their next attack.

It figures, I show up where the lionesses are hanging out as a Zebra:-o

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