Family of Lions Playing in the Wilderness

Lucky enough to witness some major events during this month’s game drives, Adil captures a mix of happy and intense moments amongst prides.

Following on from last month, here’s a heart-warming update on the Gadakbari pride with its young cubs who were being threatened by the new intruder males – we found the pride perfectly healthy and well.

Family of Wild Cats
Cubs playing with the Lioness

But, looks like the intruder males bring chaos wherever they go. Trouble is brewing in the western side of the park: the intruder males that threatened the Gadakbari pride might have set their eyes on the hunting grounds of the Ratanguna pride which has three adult females, three cubs, one sub-adult female, one sub-adult male and two dominant males.

A week ago, we came across a male facing away from us, drinking water at a distance. We could only see his back. As he quenched his thirst in the heat, he got up and moved into the scrub where we lost sight of him and we decided to move ahead. Then after about four kilometres, we came across another male resting on the side of the track and after taking a closer look we realised it was one of the intruder males.

Sighting of a male drinking from the water hole


Sighting of a male drinking from the water hole

Billiwada male - one of the intruders


Billiwada male - one of the intruders

As we exited the park, I couldn’t help but stop thinking about what what’s going to happen next. What does the future hold for the Ratanguna pride and its little members?

The beauty of the jungle is that you never really know what you will get to see. A few days later, I was in the forest with our guests for the early morning safari. It was still dark. The silence was punctuated by the gut wrenching roars of a male lion. I could feel shivers down my spine with his each roar. Such was the intensity. Upon closer observation, we were amazed to see that this poor chap had a porcupine quill stuck under his lower jaw. Turns out he was one of the dominant males from the Kamleshwar Dam area.

The porcupine’s quills and spines are white with black rings. For nocturnal animals, this black and white coloration can often be referred to as aposematic. The quills act as a warning sign for predators. For those who don’t back off, the porcupine will charge quickly using all its might. The sharp quills could then penetrate the skin and remain deeply embedded in the attacker thanks to the numerous barbs on the tips. Interestingly, my colleague Varun spotted a Nilgai with a quill stuck on his nasal area, on the very same day. It’s quite fascinating to know how certain species react when threatened.

Kamleshwar Dam Male with a porcupine quill


Kamleshwar Dam male with a porcupine quill

 Nilgai with a porcupine quill


Nilgai with a porcupine quill

That morning safari had something more shocking in store for us. As we moved towards the Ratanguna area hoping to come across the Ratanguna pride, we could sense lion warfare in the air. One of the dominant Ratanguna males had been injured by the intruder males. Sadly, looks like the reign of the dominant males of Ratanguna had come to an end. In the following days, we saw one of the intruder males mating with the Ratanguna female – a sure sign of a take-over. Out of the three cubs, it’s highly likely that one of them has been killed. There was no sign of the female with the other two cubs. The other pride members including the sub-adult male and female have been pushed out and were recently seen on the fringes of the park.

 The dominant Rantanguna male injured in the battle


The dominant Ratanguna male injured in the battle

 The sub-adult and female of the Rantanguna pride


The sub-adult male and female of the Ratanguna pride

The intruder with the Rantanguna female


The intruder with the Ratanguna female

 The new ruling dominant male Billiwada male of Rantanguna


The new ruling dominant of Ratanguna - the Billiwada male

Tension amongst the Ratanguna pride seems to be high and change is inevitable. Speaking of change, displaying a distinctive growth in his mane, the little one from the Ratanguna pride has grown into a fairly impressive young male. Looking robust and pretty unscarred, it will be interesting to see his face change over the next few years; the scar on his snout is most likely the result of the fight amongst the pride. One day he too will build up the needed strength and confidence to take claim of territory.

Rantanguna pride's impressive young male