Lion cub

Lion cub in tree



© Künkel/Shah

A story about lions

Lying beneath a small bush on the Serengeti Plains, five lionesses and their cubs are snoozing the day away. From time to time, an eye is opened and scans for trouble. When it comes, the five lions are awake in an instant. On the horizon, walking closer is a big male lion.

Male lions are much larger than lion females and will fight to control lion prides (groups). When a new male lion takes over a pride, he will kill all of the young cubs so that the females will rapidly become fertile and be able to breed with him. A male lion may control a pride and live off of its hunting successes, but it works hard to defend the pride from other lions that might try to establish themselves as dominant male and kill the cubs.

For these five lionesses, there is trouble. Their resident male is away and there is a new male on the horizon. The male moves closer, stops, sits, and then moves closer again. The females wake the cubs and move off at a trot under the hot midday sun. The new male follows them at a distance.

After a long walk, the females are hot and exhausted, but have found a new shade tree. The male moves closer, sits and moves closer. The females are nervous, and watch his approach through wide, yellow eyes. The tension in the air can be cut with a claw.

The male is edging closer and closer and then it happens. The male has stepped over some invisible boundary and the females are sparked into action. Four of the lionesses trot out towards the approaching male, ears flattened, eyes squinted, and mouths open showing their long, yellow fangs. The male stops, then flinches. The females break into a sprint, bodies close to the ground, and connect with the surprised looking male. A cloud of dust obscures the fight, though snarling faces and bared claws can be momentarily made out.

When the dust settles, the females are standing and panting in a ring. At the center is the terrified male, bleeding and lying on his back in the ultimate sign of lion submission. A moment, then they attack again, and another cloud of dust rises around the writhing figures. Again, as suddenly as it started, the fight is over. The four females are sitting, shoulders together. The male runs away as best he can, holding a sliced paw to his chest, and bleeding from innumerable vicious bites, rips, and slashes.

The females return to their tree as if nothing has happened and tend to their cubs. The sun beats down, the flies drone on, and another day passes on the Serengeti Plains.

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