As promised here is a short article about the mane-less lions of Shompole. While on a game drive in the Shompole Conservancy we came across a pride of resident lions. I was very excited to see lions in such an arid area with very little prey species to feed on.
We stopped at a distance as off road driving is not permitted and professional guiding ethics come in to play, something I totally respect. Animals in their natural habitat must be respected at all times; we are the ones in their territory.
At a glance it looked like a pride of eight females and one cub that was in poor condition. It was the peak of the dry season and the long rains had failed. I really felt bad for the little cub as he was moaning for milk but the females would have none of it!
The pride was sleeping out in the open and some of its members were on the lookout for prey as they all looked very lean with their belly flaps hanging loose. Looking through my binoculars I noticed that the group had five males! I was in utter shock! They looked exactly like the females with very little or no mane.
I was excited when they got up and came towards the vehicle keyed up by a small herd of Grants gazelle. This gave me a chance to take a few photos of these mane-less males. There are a few theories about why some males don’t develop manes: that it is an adaptation for hunting in a thorny bush environment, a means of avoiding excessive heat as their manes retain a lot of body heat, heightened levels of testosterone or poor genetics. This is common amongst lions in both Tsavo East and West National Parks and they are sometimes referred to as Buffalo lions. It is worth noting that the famous Man- Eaters of Tsavo were also mane-less!
They say mane-less males are very aggressive but these boys looked very gentle and calm. May they continue to roam the plains of Shompole for a long, long time!