It's tough being a lion, especially in areas without extensive herds of zebra and wildebeest. To get by, two female lions on Taita Ranch, adjacent to the Tsavo National Parks, shared cub-raising responsibilities. Phenny and her two cubs were joined by Diana and her two surviving cubs in early 2004. Shortly after, Phenny disappeared and was never seen again.
Diana now had four cubs to look after, and somehow managed to do it unassisted by other lionesses. After a year, the female cub left to join another lioness, Haya, apparently as apprentice care-giver; competition for food with her larger brother and cousins grew intolerable. Meanwhile, Diana managed to bring down enough game to raise the boys, who were more of a liability than a help when it came to hunting. One of the males disappeared during the second year, again an apparent mortality while two of the original four saw their second birthdays this past winter.
Now significantly larger than Diana, Calvin and Elton are hunters in their own right, and they claim first access to kills. Yet Diana led their hunting sorties, right up to her coming into estrus, when her condition attracted the attentions of the pride males, Kabochi and Bahati. They took exception to proximity of the maturing males to Diana during her heat, and Elton was the victim of some ferocious aggression, which subsided once Diana became pregnant.
Now with another litter of cubs, Diana is by herself. The boys hunt alone and keep an eye out for Kabochi and Bahati on their patrols. What happens next? Click here to find out more about the Lions of Tsavo.
By Dr Bruce Patterson
Field Museum of Natural History
Photo of Diana, Calvin and Elton © Bruce Patterson