Mating lions:

A video taken during the safari drive on the 12 of March 2016 of a lioness rebuffing the advances of a male lion we call the Mohlabetsi male. The mating period and frequency of mating is the stuff of legend. They would mate about every 20 minutes over a period of up to 5 days which add to up to 250 times over the period. An incredible feat, but there are some sound reasoning behind it. When a lioness goes into estrous (a hormonal condition where a lioness would be able to produce eggs), she would advertise this condition by frequent scent marking and roaring to attract the dominant male lions in her area. Male lions can assess this condition of females through a process called flehmen. They would smell her urine while pulling back the lips as if snarling. By doing this, ducts between the mouth and nose would open towards the vomero-nasal organ whose function is to aid in this process.

Mating is a turbulent affair with lots snarling and growling interspersed with some real tenderness. The male’s penis is barbed and would hurt the female during retraction causing her to often lash out. This stimulation is thought to be required to start ovulation. A human produces an egg every 28 days which would be discarded along with the lining of the uterus if not fertilized. Lions do not have the luxury to waste that much energy and would need this extra stimulation, and lots of it, to produce an egg. This in conjunction with lions’ notorious low sperm count necessitates the frantic mating activity.

An interesting fact is that lionesses can go into what we call a fake estrous where they will mate with new territorial males while giving them time (6 months to a year) to assess whether they will be able to hold onto their territory for long enough for them to raise cubs safely. Waste not; want not.

As always with nature you find that there are a lot more to seeing mating lions than meets the eye.