The life of a lion isn’t easy

Hopefully you’ve been enjoying the adventures of the lions that David Quammen has been writing about in this month’s National Geographic. David writes about the dramatic lives of C-boy and Hildur, two very good-looking male lions that roam the Serengeti, and the challenges that they face as male lions trying to survive in the Serengeti. I was in the car with Ingela that day that the Killers nearly destroyed C-boy — it was one of my first days in Serengeti, and one of the many moments that I fell in love with the dramatic lives of the animals there.

There’s a good chance you’ve seen C-boy and Hildur and Killers, as well as all the ladies they’ve been fighting over, in the camera traps. Below is a map of the pride territories overlaid on the Snapshot Serengeti cameras. There are a lot more prides than this, but these are the ones that Nick Nichols and Davide Quammen followed.

SnapshotSerengeti cameras and the lions that David wrote about in NatGeo

SnapshotSerengeti cameras and the lions that David writes about in NatGeo

Jua Kali, where Hildur and C-boy resided in 2009, control just a tiny patch of land in the center of the study area where the Seronera river begins. They spend most of their time in a marshy lowland where those two small tributaries, converge. The marsh has lush grass and standing water, but is just a tiny oasis in the otherwise dry and desolate grassland. It is not the best territory that a lion can have.

After C-boy and Hildure were deposed from Jua Kali, they eventually took over the Vumbi pride. It worked out pretty well for them in the end – the Vumbi’s are not only a bigger pride, but maintain control over the Zebra Kopjes, a suite of rocky outcroppings that provide shade, water, and a vantage point to watch for prey across the open plains. Despite C-boy’s brush with death and his inelegant retreat from power, C-boy and Hildur really haven’t done too badly for themselves.

North of Vumbi, the Kibumbu pride ranges along the Ngare Nanyuki river. When David was writing about our lions, the Killers had recently taken over the Kibumbu pride. Unfortunately, the Kibumbu females had had young cubs fathered by the previous coalition; the Killers would have killed these cubs to bring the Kibumbu females into sexual receptivity. Infanticide is a brutal, but natural part of a lion’s life.

So there it is. The lions that are gracing the pages of this month’s National Geographic magazine are the same ones that you see yawning, sleeping, and stretching in front of the Snapshot Serengeti camera traps. David’s story, and Nick Nichols’ photos, provide an amazing and detailed dive into their lives.

We’re currently raising funds to keep Snapshot Serengeti and the long-term Lion Research Project afloat. Thanks to everyone who has donated so far!


Tags: , , ,

About ali swanson

I'm an ecologist studying how large carnivores coexist. I spend way too much of my time trying to stop hyenas and elephants from munching my camera traps!

5 responses to “The life of a lion isn’t easy”

  1. Anne Whitaker says :

    Hi Ali!
    I actually get the print version of the National Geographic. I am a “newish” photo-classifying volunteer, but have been telling everyone about the effort, and I was so happy with the article and the recognition you are getting. Wow, you really do live on a shoestring. Anyways, I reposted this and will also post the plea for donations! Not that I have a huge following, but you never know. Congratulations on the natgeo recognition. I hope it brings donations your way.
    Keep up the good work – no matter where you are.

    • Margaret Kosmala says :

      Thanks for helping us out, Anne, both in classifying images and in spreading the word about our fundraising. We really appreciate it!

  2. tina dobson gaffney says :

    Ali, I’ve desperately been trying to find out the status of c-boy for many months now. He is very special to me. I am aware Ingela named him years ago and his close call with death. Can you please please find something out about him status now. Thank you so very much. Tina

    • ali swanson says :

      Oh my goodness, Tina, I don’t know how I’m just seeing all these comments now. I’ll see what I can find out for you!!

      • Tina Dobson Gaffney says :

        hi Ali, wow, isn’t that crazy, I don’t remember when I tried reaching out you about C boy. I have contacted different people about him to no avail. As I know they have a short life and Craig told me a few months ago it’s likely he’s not alive anymore, which like I said I suspected that. He is my complete inspiration for my never ending realization that I can never, ever quit fighting for the plight of wild lions. I’m actually gonna get my first tattoo and it’s going to be him. Thank you so much for anything you can find out because I know you are a busy gal. Take care, Tina

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: