Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Pride wars — attack of the kings.


Sheroo meets Leo Kappoorio — a handsome Asiatic lion. But Sheroo learns that life is not all about good looks, for, Leo has his share of problems too.

Last week I ran into this dude from Gir forest I 'd always thought I was the badshah of cool until I met this guy- he's a regular rockstar, long-haired and dashing! An Asiatic Lion, he had a rather fancy name too — Leo Kappoorio (which I suspect is a slightly altered version of what his mother named him).

We got talking and I brought up the recent lion- killing incidents in Chennai's Vandalur zoo. There had been two instances this year where lions have killed another of their species.

What is all this about? Leo shook his handsome head dismissively: “Why fuss so much? These guys actually have it easy in the zoos. The lions that got killed were old, one was thirteen and the other nineteen. In the jungle you are lucky if you live to be ten! ''

Leo then proceeded to tell me about life in the wild. His home is Gir, in Gujarat, the last bastion of the Lion king. Unlike us tigers, these folks don't lead solitary lives. All lion cubs are born in prides, where mommy and her sisters live and hunt together along with their mates. A lion's pride in Gir usually comprises two adult mothers, with their entourage of cubs and of course, the dads.

Family talk

Pride loyalties run deep for the female lions. They are all related – sisters, cousins and daughters. The males are part of the pride until tougher guys break in and throw them out. To gain entry to a pride, they have to impress the ladies and this they do with a huge show of machismo. This can be very bloody, says Leo. The resident males are killed or injured badly that they have no choice but move out.

“We live in dangerous times mate, no one is safe, especially if you are male.” says Leo. Once in, the guys have their pride duties — mostly it's patrolling and marking territory. The females being smaller and faster, actually lead the pack for the kill.

Growing up isn't easy either. Sometimes, male lions taking over a pride kill the cubs and ‘teen' lions. Even otherwise, growing up is tough. Mothers hide new- born cubs under bushes to protect them from predators like hyenas, until they are about two months of age. Cubs are able to run around by the time they are a month old but they don't start eating meat until they are around three months .Then it's school time, learning the ropes to hunt and kill. By the time, a cub is around one, he could join the hunting party. This is also when they actually begin to roar!

Unlike us tigers, these guys hunt in a group. And guess what? Men get the lion's share of the prey!

Leo is two years old and cubs until the age of four usually remain with their pride. But he is wary. “I can see it coming, pal. One of these days, my Pa will get thrown out by a toughie and it's not going to be good for me and my brother. So shortly, I plan to leave this pride along with my brother Simboo. Between us, we should manage to survive on our own. I'll miss my folks but one has to see the writing on the wall, don't you think?”

Did you know?

Asiatic lions were found in the Mediterranean, even Greece and Rome at one time.

There are only over 350 Asiatic lions left in the wild today and all of them live in Gir.

Asiatic lions have smaller, shaggier manes compared to their African cousins and their ears are always seen.

Lions spend most of their time resting, about 20 hours a day!

African lions live in larger prides, four to six female lions and their families.

Source: http://www.hindu.com/yw/2009/12/15/stories/2009121550351100.htm

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