Why did a group of lionesses kill a male lion at the Knowsley Safari Park, Merseyside? I’ve been scratching my head because it is not often that you read about female lions killing a male lion except to defend their cubs from male infanticide
. In fact I can’t remember the last time I read about this.
African and Asian lions are well known to create relatively stable social structures; the pride. For example, in the wild, in the Serengeti a lion pride consists of 2 to 18 adult females, their cubs, and 1 to 7 males. All the females are related and they form the stable core of the pride. The females do most of the hunting and killing but the males displace them and the cubs at kills.
An earlier captive lion dispute and female lion attack
In September 7, 2018, the West Midlands Safari Park reported an attack by female lions on a male over food (see image above). Normally the male lions kept the females in check but on this occasion the females got a single male first and injured him. He did not sustain serious injuries and was given pain relief.
Recent Knowsley Park attack
In the Knowsley Safari Park, Merseyside case a seven-year-old male lion called Mojo was attacked by a group of females and badly injured in a fight in the enclosure. The newspapers say that this is not unusual within a mixed-sex group. Mojo died of his injuries later. Mojo was given pain relief but died while recovering from an anaesthetic. The park keepers suggested that that was a humane outcome. He died of internal injuries. They weren’t immediately visible and were only discovered through a post-mortem examination.
The newspaper suggest that it is not uncommon for an attack on a male lion in a pride because they have to be accepted into the pride. The process causes conflict. They don’t, however, explain whether it is a male lion or a female who does the attacking.
Females defend cubs
Sometimes males attempting a takeover of a pride are repelled by females with small cubs because they protect their cubs. But that wouldn’t be the case in this instance as far as I know. I know of no other instance when females have a reason to attack males in a pride. But I’m open to suggestions from others.
Captive conditions causing stresses
I have a feeling that this killing was exacerbated by the confined captive setting of a safari park in the UK. This probably generated stresses and this fight may also have been caused by a dispute over food. The females ganged up in large numbers as you can see in the photograph and the intent was to kill the male lion. There is no question about it.
In a recent story I reported on a male lion killing his proposed female mate. I think that too is a captive cat issue.
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