Tuesday 16 February 2016

Lion Man Love

It was a crisp winter's morning.
Francolins were calling, announcing the unavoidable dawn that was breaking.
The Land Rover engine was chugging along as we slowly crawled out of the lodge grounds of Leopard Hills Private Game Reserve in the Sabi Sand (South Africa).

Then the roaring of lions brought us on high alert.
We followed, and came across one of the legendary Majingilane coalition male lions, walking up the road ahead of us and roaring towards his brothers. His brothers answered!

Nikon D3s  |  Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II  |  f4.0  |  1/200 SS  |  ISO-3200

Soon we were witness to a reunion of these males - they had all been patrolling various corners of their territory, and this morning was their bonding moment. It was gloomy weather, but as I always do I just push up the ISO and let my trusty Nikon capture the action.

Nikon D3s  |  Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II  |  f4.0  |  1/200 SS  |  ISO-6400

A third male joined, and they started rolling over each other, rubbing their scent off on one another and just bonding like lion brothers often do.

Nikon D3s  |  Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II  |  f5.0  |  1/250 SS  |  ISO-5000
Nikon D3s  |  Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II  |  f5.0  |  1/250 SS  |  ISO-3200

And then...things got awkward. Very awkward! :)

Nikon D3s  |  Nikkor 500mm f4 VR-II  |  f5.0  |  1/250 SS  |  ISO-4000

And no, this is not proof that animals have same-sex tendencies (before anyone jumps on a bandwagon that this post is not intended to provide)...this is purely a display of dominance and is not all that uncommon in mammals. It's a gesture, no real action is taken by the instigator, and the purpose is to assert dominance in a setting such as this where there are multiple males in a coalition and some sort of hierarchy is ascribed to. It was over in a few seconds, and the males flopped down to do what kings of the African bush do during the day - doze off...

We moved on from there to look for a family of cheetah - but the sighting remains one that I'll remember for a long time...seeing these males and the affection they showed upfront, combined with that quick weird show of dominance from the superior ranking one, gave me a glimpse into the dynamics of these male lion coalitions that have so long been the staple of the Sabi Sands and Greater Kruger area.

Are you keen to experience the wonder of the South African bush?
Then be sure to check out the Wild Eye Wildlife Photography Seminar that I am co-hosting in April!

Until next time...

Morkel Erasmus


  1. Very interesting,Morkel.Thanks for sharing.

    By the way: excepcetional good photos!!!!

  2. This dominant interaction caught on camera is truly amazing... :-)

  3. In the Athens museum, there are a large number of amphorae that have been taken out of the mainstream public view. They are easily accessible by ay member of the public that requests to see them. They are considered too sexually explicit for public display.
    In amongst these are a number of amphorae that depict scenes of the Greeks perusing the conquered. But these men are running from the Greeks "a tergo", or backwards. This was done to prevent being attacked by the Greeks with their buttocks exposed and vulnerable to assault, because the Greeks frequently engaged in male rape of the conquered, because male rape was considered the ultimate act of degradation. The ancient Greeks and many ancient people took the defeated and enslaved them, even aristocrats and people of high birth. The males were subjected to frequent acts of male on male sexual aggression, and often raped, purely as way of degrading and subjugating, their conquered.
    Your description of male dominance among alpha-male lions in the wild seems to be a primal manifestation of a trait and custom, that rises even up to homo sapiens
    and as stated, has nothing at all to do homosexual behaviorist in the animal kingdom, and is a very important point of differentiation. There is no " love " that is persuant of this behaviorism. Wonderful pictures and possibly even unique.Well done!