If You’re A Single Mom Of Two And You Think You Have It Tough…Check This Out
Lions living in the wilds of Africa have it tough, there’s no guarantee of a meal every day, but what if you have two hungry cubs in tow, they have to get fed. This is a example of one mother’s struggle to survive and insure the survival of her two cubs. A lioness has to protect her cubs from any number of dangerous predators. Including other lions who will kill cubs that are not their own.
Lionesses, female lions, give birth to cubs away from the pride. Typically a lioness will have between one to four cubs in one litter. Since cubs are born completely helpless, she keeps them hidden from all animals, including her own pride. Cubs don’t even open their eyes until 3-11 days of age. When the cubs are about eight weeks old, she finally introduces them to her pride.
Many of the females in a pride give birth around the same time, so they have cubs of a similar age. This makes it natural for them to care for, protect and feed each other’s young. In fact, the lionesses in a pride will often nurse other lioness’s cubs. It is truly communal care. However, if another lioness has cubs that are more than 3 months older, the lioness with the younger cubs will not rejoin the pride.
One of the most important jobs of a lioness is to protect her cubs. The majority of cubs don’t live to see their first birthday. Depending on the conditions, 40-80% die before turning one. There are two reasons for this: starvation and coalition invaders. A coalition is a group of ousted male lions from another pride. Their main goal is to find a pride of females. When they do find a pride, they must first fight the existing males. If they succeed, the coalition then goes after the cubs.
Lionesses will take care of their cubs until they reach the age of two or three. Then, the mother goes through estrus, her heat cycle, and carries another litter. The pride forces out the male lion cubs and some of the female lion cubs as well. They must now fend for themselves or find another pride.