Baby lions hugging
When it is time to give birth a lioness leaves her pride and has her lion cubs in dense cover. Mothers give birth to up to 6 cubs at a time but litters of 2 or 3 are more common. Cubs remain hidden for one to two months before being introduced to the rest of the pride.
All the lactating females in a pride suckle cubs showing no favoritism for their own offspring. The reason for this is that each lioness is enhancing her own genes’ success by helping to raise her sisters’ offspring.
The cubs start to eat meat at about three months and are weaned at about six months. Lionesses stay within the pride all their lives but male lions either leave of their own accord or are driven off by the pride males at two to three years of age.
Cubs stay with their mothers for about two years, by which stage they have joined the pride’s hunting trips. After one to two years of nomadic life, these young males drive out the resident males of a pride and take over the females.
If a small group of males leave together they are able to hunt as a group and stand a better chance of being able to take over a pride. Females prefer their pride to have a large male coalition because it reduces the number of cubs lost to infanticide at take-overs. The displaced male lions seldom live long since they no longer have lionesses to hunt for them. Lionesses prefer their pride to be controlled by a large coalition of males whose strength in numbers will give them a longer tenure.
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