The big question that we all have is could one of the Ntsevu Pride lionesses be infertile?
Five of the six lionesses in the pride have had cubs over the last two years, but one is still yet to give birth. The remaining lioness has been seen mating over and over again with the Birmingham males, but to no avail.
Lionesses will typically mate with several males within an area to ensure that each male believes the cubs to be his own. In this way, the cubs gain protection from all the males in a territory and avoid infanticide. It is also known that not every oestrus cycle will result in ovulation. This may be a strategy to ensure that when ovulation does occur, it is likely that the strongest coalition of males will have settled in a territory. In this manner, by the time a lioness conceives, cubs are protected by the presence of territorial males holding the strongest genes in that area at that time.
About three weeks ago, a single Ntsevu lioness was found mating with one of the Birmingham males. They were together for about four days, mating consistently – as lions do.
Then, only a few days ago, a mating pair was found in the far southwest of Londolozi. We would expect to find either the Mungheni pride or even the Southern pride in these parts. The male was easy enough to identify as the Othawa male. Upon close inspection of the lioness’ whisker pattern, it was confirmed to be the same Ntsevu lioness as pictured above.
The pair was viewed mating for roughly three days. We hypothesise that one of the Birmingham males wondered into the area, roaring, which may have caused the Othawa male to up and move west into more familiar territory. This is based on tracks that were followed in the area, leading straight to where a Birmingham male was found. The lioness was miles away from the safety of the rest of her pride, but clearly that’s what instinct can drive a lioness to do.
Will these recent matings finally result in this lioness falling pregnant? Only time will tell, but we think not…