MATING


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MATING, FEMALES AND THE NEXT GENERATION

 

When a female comes into estrus, she presents herself to the male who mates with her, approx. 100 times, with an average interval of 15-20 minutes, over a period of a few days, approx four days. Only one estrus in 5 normally results in pregnancy.

 

 However, he can not mate with a female if she is not willing.

During these periods they will normally not eat and the male never losses sight of the female, instead when she moves he is right by her side.

 

The writer of this web pages has seen a male fight other lions (females) for food so the female in estrus could eat. See feeding pages.

 

Jacobson's Organ
The lion has an excellent sense of smell due to this special organ located on the upper interior of the lion's mouth. The male tests to see if the female is ready for mating - perceiving her hormone level.  A male can not mate if the female is not willing.

The male grimace - testing the females readiness to mate

 

Ovulation occurs only after mating. Breeding cycles often depend on the amount of prey available. Often females of a pride breed synchronously. This helps to raise the cubsí chances of survival.

 

Males taking over a pride, ensure new genes and thus creating a better future for the pride. This is also important to ensure no in-breeding for the future.

 

The need to ensure his genes are carried to the next generation is so incredibly strong that when the dominant male is hurt, he will still, perform these mating duties.

 

As male lions, living free, usually only rule the pride on average for approx +- 2-3 years, for this reason, upon taking over a pride, the male will kill all cubs, (infanticide) this is to ensure that the females come into estrus within a few days to ensure his genes.

 

 Although after a take over, the lioness can come into heat every few weeks it can take her +- 4 to 5 months before becoming pregnant.

 

 

 

This is her "insurance", that the males don't desert the pride, that they bond with the females as well as protect the territory.

 

 

After this "insurance" period the pride female ovulates and conceive. The infanticide is fast and needed as the males usually just have time enough to bring one generation into the world and that is, if he is lucky.

 

 

 

 

Other males trying to mate with a female can be killed, even if they are from the same pride. This also varies depending on the individual male coalition as different behaviors in coalitions have been observed.

 On the slide below - this male is the only one of three males that have ever been observed having mating rights and most interestingly is the fact that he is not allowed to eat with the other males but has to wait until they are finished before eating with the females. The three females turn to him and him alone for protecting and always ensure they are close to him. The do the usual greeting ceremony with other males but seem to favor the mating male in all their social behaviors, even when not in estrus.

 

At approximately 98-115 days.  (14  - 15 weeks) she will have her cubs Ė average litter is 3


The mother will move the cubs to a new den every couple of weeks. She will move them one at a time, carrying them by the nape of the neck. If she allows them to remain in one den too long their scent can attract predators such as hyenas.

 
There is likely to be several females that will give birth around the same time. They will bring their young into the area within a few days of each other. The mothers arenít distinctive about the young and will often offer milk to their own and to other young cubs. They will even adopt young should their biological mother be killed.

 
If only one cub is born, in the wild, the mother often leaves it to die, she then comes into estrus again and her chances of having four cubs are improved. If she should look after only the one cub, and it survives, she will not come into estrus for two years.

Normal infant mortality, from various causes, are high. From this natural action of the mother, she ensures a future for lions. This knowledge is exploited by various breeding areas in South Africa, ensuring the have small cubs for the public to play with, thus ensuring a steady income. By all means ask them why they have the cubs and they will all tell you: the female rejected the cubs. Utter nonsense to say the least. Cubs are taken away so that females come in estrus, having more cubs for generating income and to sell as "tame" lions for willing buyers. Eventually the females will reject cubs as they have never raised or taken care of cubs.

One of the benefits of the Lions living in a pride is that they can help with the care of the young. Why some females go to hunt for food others will stay behind to protect the young even letting other cubs, from the same pride suckle.


 


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Lion Website, contents : photos and information Charmane Baleiza  Copyright 2012

Video footage used: Courtesy of BBC Nature Wildlife - displaying BBC video's on this site is for educational purposes - Please do not copy any photos - More lion photos on http://www.pixoto.com/charmane/recent