Transgender Lion

She is a female lion – a lioness – living in Botswana’s Okavango Delta but looks and behaves very much like a male lion and the most discernible feature is her magnificent, flowing mane.

Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles:- Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

The locals have named her Mmamoriri. Scientists are not sure why she has the mane of an adult male lion. It may be an example of pure evolution because the mane gives the lion an advantage in survival. For example, in a battle between her pride of lions and a competing one over a buffalo carcass she held off ten lionesses for four hours. What forced her to give way was the arrival of two rival male lions. Once they entered the scene they attacked her – I presume as a competing male usurper – and she was forced to retreat. She is playing the role of a male lion even to the extent that she tries to mate with female lions.

It may be the case that she was exposed to high levels of male hormones in the womb. Alternatively a genetic aberration occurred which has proved successful in terms of survival for both her and her pride, in which case the mutation will survive and be passed on to offspring and perhaps in the long term become a norm. She is not the only lioness with male characteristics but they are naturally very rare at present. However, “lady-manes” as they are referred to could become a regular feature of the prides in the delta where she lives.

The advantage of having a mane are manifold. For example, it tricks male lions into believing that she is a male which can scare them off when she is eating. She is able to receive priority treatment at the dinner table which naturally assists survival.

“Lions are sociable animals, so if it benefits the whole pride there’s a chance the gene will continue to prosper” said the BBC wildlife presenter Chris Packman who filmed the pride for a programme entitled: The World’s Sneakiest Animals. It will be on Christmas television on BBC 2 at 6:30pm on Christmas Day.

It is believed that she is infertile.

“She has been seen, once, covered by a male; no success. No cubs..She is almost certainly infertile” (Simon Dures a geneticist from the Institute of Zoology in London).

The transgender lion indicates the obvious that it is easier for a male lion to survive than a female on the basis that this is a genetic mutation that will stick and which we will see more of.

The existence of this lioness does not surprise me. The same issues occur amongst humans as we well know indicating another obvious point: humans are animals as well.

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