After initially fleeing from their natal pride with the arrival of the Ndhzenga Males, the Nstevu Breakaway Pride is still keeping their distance from the dominant force to the east as well as staying clear of the indomitable coalition to the west, the Plains Camp Males. Rapidly growing and perfecting their hunting skills, this formidable pride are relentless in their pursuit of the large herd of buffalo. With three of the four males being born in 2018 and one male and the female being born in 2019, they are now all sexually mature. Their manes are filling out and their stature and physique transforming into impressive powerhouses. As it stands the future looks bright for them, should they stick together and avoid any conflict with the larger dominant males. However, this begs the question as to what is next for their sister?
With the female now fully sexually mature, she will be coming into oestrus and naturally seeking out a male to mate with. In order to avoid inbreeding or mating with her brothers, this will require her to leave her brothers and seek out another male. She was too young to mate with the Ndzhenga Males when they arrived. If she were to seek them out, she would likely bump into the Ntsevu Pride, her mother, her aunts and litter mates/siblings. She has not seen any of these lions since she initially fled, the bond between them will have been lost and she will be seen as an outsider or intruder.
With the Ntsevu Pride now having young cubs her presence will be even more of a threat and therefore it is unlikely that she will be able to rejoin her natal pride. However, it is not entirely out of the question, there is a small chance she could rejoin but it will be a long and slow process as she tries to regain their trust. Pride membership is only attained when individuals interact amicably with each other over time.
For as long as she sticks around with her brothers, instinct will kick in and the males will see her as mating stock, they can’t conceptualise that mating with her is inbreeding and will have detrimental effects down the line. Some of the potential males should could mate with would be the Skorro Breakaway Male, the Nkuhuma Male, the Plains Camp Males and the Ndzhenga Males. All of these would require her to leave her brothers and spend some time away. Would she be able to find her brothers after this, would she want to advertise her presence in order to find a mate or refind her brothers?
In a sighting recently the oldest and arguably most impressive Ntsevu Breakaway Male approached this lioness to smell her pheromones, using an organ in the top of his palate he is able to determine her sexual readiness from the hormone content of her urine. Some of the rangers have also seen him attempt to ‘mate’ with her. With the male being inexperienced in the act of mating and her likely to only be in her first estrus cycle it is unlikely that she will fall pregnant from this type of mating. She will need to go through the proper process of mating every 20 minutes or so for four to five days in order to induce ovulation so she can conceive.
By spending so much time with her brother and accompanying them on numerous buffalo hunts, she has become an excellent huntress and gained invaluable skills. She is in remarkable condition and so with her days alongside her brother probably being numbered before she embarks on a somewhat nomadic journey seeking out a mate, I have a feeling she will fare very well.
So this begs a number of questions… When will she leave her brothers in search of a male to mate with? Probably fairly soon, in the next few months. Will she accept life as a solitary lioness like the Tsalala Female? I have my doubts, she is used to the social company of living in a pride and lions are highly social animals so I think she will try to find another lion to spend her time with. What about the Tsalala Female as a potential partner? I am sure if she was roaming alone and came across the Tsalala Female there would be some interaction with each other. After all, they are distantly related. However, this would be dependent on the status of the Tsalala Female at the time, they are of similar ages and there is a chance that the Tsalala Female could be pregnant at the time or maybe have cubs and how will this affect the prospects of them joining up to form a new pride? In some ways, it could help them both but in other ways, it is a risk having another lioness around your cubs whom you don’t fully trust yet.
Will she attempt to rejoin her natal pride? The short answer is yes, I am sure she will try at some point but I have a feeling it won’t be a simple process and she will be rejected in the beginning. How will the Ndzhenga Males react to her should she try to mate with them? Won’t this attract the Ntsevu Females and how will they react? I think the Ndzhenga Males in isolation would accept her and mate with her. But they are never too far from the Ntsevu Pride and so I think the females won’t take lightly to her being around, especially since many of the females have cubs. If she is persistent then she could end up rejoining her natal pride.
Lastly, will she stay with her brothers? I have a feeling she will venture off to mate and then rejoin her brothers for a short period of time before eventually moving on permanently. The brothers will attempt to establish a territory of their own and this could lead to them moving on and covering significant distances. If she is pregnant or nursing cubs this will hinder her ability to move around with the brothers and if she has not mated with her brothers they would pose a threat to her cubs.
I suppose time will tell… One thing is for sure: she is a remarkable lioness whom we have been fortunate enough to watch mature into a successful hunter whose story hopefully does not end here.