Updated: Nov 18, 2022
Male lions. They get all the attention and take all the glory.
With their flowing, impressive manes, their battle scarred faces, there is a strength of character, an indomitable spirit of adventure that you just can’t ignore. Catch sight of a lion, sitting ramrod straight, staring into the distance, unblinking, the wind playing gently with his mane and its easy to know why the crown of royalty was bestowed on this creature.
There's no denying the fact...they DO look royal !
However, spare a thought for the lionesses.
They do ALL the hard work. For no recognition , let alone glory.
They, of course, rear the cubs. They vanish into solitude to give birth, bring them up amidst immense danger till its time to introduce the cubs to the rest of the pride, and even that introduction to the rest of the family is fraught with risk. You never really know how the family might react.
Being a mother or an aunt to the cubs can be a painful responsibility for the lionesses. In the true sense of the word.
The young ones are least bothered if their moms or aunts are sleeping or taking some well deserved rest. They will walk all over them, their nails painfully digging in. They will go and wake them up whenever they feel they need a feed. They will constantly play ( bite ! ) with the elders’ tails and no angry snarls or a sharp whacks will deter them. If you are next to a pride of resting lionesses with cubs, you can't help but chuckle when you hear the irritated snarls from the lionesses at some pesky cub.
The responsibility of ensuring that the pride is well fed is another huge cross to bear. The lionesses are, more often than not, the sole providers for food for the pride and, yet, often end up playing second fiddle when it comes to enjoying the spoils of the hunt. If the male lion is in the vicinity and decides to join the dinner table, he demands, and gets priority.
Lions might be the apex predator but the responsibility of protecting the cubs is a serious one. And one that rests almost solely with the lioness. The threat to the cubs is both from other predators and from within their species.
The males are forever roaming around protecting their territory. While the prides' lions are away, the risk of being killed by any marauding male that might come over to take over the pride is a real and ever present one.
And of course, there is the danger that other predators like the hyenas or the leopards pose to any insouciant cub roaming too far from the rest of the pride.
Their daunting responsibilities aside - they rear, they feed and they protect the entire family ! - I find the behavior of lionesses in a pride simply fascinating.
Cubs can go to any lioness to suckle and not only to their mother. All the seniors pamper them. Its one large family, like the old saying – It takes a village to raise a child.
Next time you are with a pride, pay attention to the interaction between the lionesses. Almost every time a lioness gets up, she will go and bump heads with another lioness and both will indulge in a lot of nuzzling which is, honestly, quite lovely to observe.
Yet, for all their tireless efforts, the moment a male lion appears, all of us turn our cameras away from the lionesses.
And hence…a few images dedicated to the indefatigable lionesses :)
We chanced uppn this single lady who had just lost her kill to the hyenas. That look says it all!!
" I spy with my lil' eye...." They had seen a warthog in the distance. Too tiny for a large pride, but every morsel counts. What followed was a superb example of strategy and execution.
Five male lions. One lioness. Am incredibly lucky that I could notice this brilliant play of light on the sole lioness, focused as I was mainly on the males...yeah, I plead guilty ! :)
Two lionesses indulging in some affectionate nuzzling, with the incredible Mara spread out in front of them.
A lioness stands and stares at the beauty around her
The unmistakable silhouette of a lioness from the Black Rock pride