Dominant male lions presiding over a pride will eject young males born to that pride as the youngsters mature. This can be a gradual process, with the fathers showing increased aggression towards the young males, until they eventually leave their natal pride. The young males can also leave their pride on their own terms after instincts start to kick in, and they become keen to establish territory. This is an important process and can take place when the sub-adults are 28 months of age, or older. Should the males remain with their pride, they could potentially mate with their sisters, mothers and aunts, and this will have obvious genetic implications.
The young males will then become nomadic, lying low from dominant males until they can mature further and become a force to be reckoned with themselves. The process of acquiring a pride is difficult. They will first have to establish a territory, which is done by claiming an unoccupied niche or by overthrowing the already dominant males in an area, and claiming their territory for themselves. Once they have the territory, they will attempt to claim the pride(s) within that territory by forcing the females to submit, and they will kill the cubs in that pride, bringing the females into oestrus quicker, and allowing them to breed again.
The two sub-adult males of the Fourways pride are maturing fast, and are approaching two and a half years of age. This means that over the coming months, it is likely that their fathers could look to chase them from the pride. What interests us is that we have not seen the Manyelethi males with this pride for almost a year now! The sub-adults were part of a litter of four, which is believed to be the first set of cubs fathered by the Manyelethi males. Since the dominant males do not spend much time with the pride, could it be that the sub-adults might be able to hang around for a while longer? It is likely that the dominant males do catch up with the pride on occasion. Since the pride’s core territory lies in the Kruger National Park, it could be that when the males catch up with them, it takes place beyond our boundary and we are unaware of the event. Although we cannot be certain about the time the Manyelethi males might spend with the pride, we are sure that it is less time than spent with any of their other four prides. In the summer months, the Eyrefield pride typically spends more time to the west, freeing up some space for the Fourways pride. Over the past few months we have seen the Fourways pride around the White Cloth and the Styx Rocks areas, well within the Eyrefield territory.
Should the sub adult males earn some extra time with their natal pride, it will be an excellent opportunity for them to develop their skills further before beginning the difficult nomadic phase of their careers. It will also be good news for the pride that could do with the extra muscle to execute their hunts. There are certainly interesting times ahead for the young males, and for the Fourways pride.