Shinde Pride's Coalition
In early 2013, the Shinde concession lion population was thrown into turmoil by the arrival of a coalition of four male lions. The following months has seen some incredible and often traumatic events for the lions and people alike, and provided a fascinating insight into the dynamics of lion social organisation and breeding behavior.
Prior to the coalition's initial appearance last year, the Shinde pride consisted of only three mature females overseen by two mature male lions. The pride has seen a great deal of upheaval over the last few years, with males constantly coming and going. The result of this constant change of leadership was that the cubs never survived and the pride's population fluctuated as the dominant males came and went. The most important function of the male lion is to provide stability to the pride females and young. By protecting the pride's territorial boundaries and evicting any trespassers they provide a stable environment in which cubs may be born and raised in relative safety. This had been lacking in the Shinde concession for several years and the result was a small and insecure lion pride.
In the event that a pride is taken over by new males, it is common for all young cubs to be killed, probably because this results in the females immediately becoming fertile thus allowing the new males to breed and ultimately pass on their own genes. A pride in which the males are regularly changing will not allow for the successful rearing of young and therefore lead to a declining population. The presence of a strong coalition far more beneficial to the pride than a single male.
The arrival of the coalition of four initially led to isolated clashes between the new arrivals and the incumbent males. However during this period one or more of the coalition males began to mate with the pride females resulting in the birth of a litter of five cubs. This was followed shortly after by further litter of four cubs. The survival of these cubs was by no means guaranteed due to the ongoing presence of the original pride males.
However at the end of 2013, this period of instability came to a dramatic head when the coalition brutally attacked the two pride males, leading to the death of a lioness (see blog from October ) and vanquishing of the two males which have not been seen again. The pride has since returned to a more peaceful and secure existence, and the cubs have so far all survived. While concession is dominated by such a strong coalition, the future appears bright for the present and future generations of the Shinde pride.