Lions in European history and art

This 19 August 2019 video is called The History of Lions in Europe.


South African leopard surrounded by lions

This 13 August 2019 video from South Africa says about itself:

Leopard Tries to Escape Pride of Lions

Watch the nerve-wracking moment caught on camera of when a male leopard finds himself surrounded by a pride of lions in the Kruger National Park!

Kerry Balaam, long time Latest Sightings Member who has shared over 1,000 sightings and professional guide that runs Kruger Pride Safaris, watched this exciting scene play itself out over the August long weekend while on a drive with her guests for Kruger Pride Safaris and Birdsong Lodge.

Serengeti lion cubs play with spy camera

This 2 August 2019 video, recorded in Tanzania, says about itself:

Lion Cubs Play With Spy Cam | Serengeti: Behind The Scenes | BBC Earth

How did the Serengeti crew manage to get so close to its animal protagonists? A boulder cam is the secret to these spectacular shots.

Kenyan 9-year-old boy saves cattle, lions’ lives

This 2013 video, in English with Dutch subtitles, says about itself:

Richard Turere: My invention that made peace with lions

In the Masai community where 13-year-old Richard Turere lives, cattle are all-important. But lion attacks were growing more frequent. In this short, inspiring talk, the young inventor shares the solar-powered solution he designed to safely scare the lions away.

By Taco van der Eb, in Mare, weekly of Leiden university in the Netherlands:

The Return of the King

Thursday 20 June 2019

Kenya’s lion population is on the rise, thanks to very close colla­boration with the local people. Mare joins Leiden biologists on a field trip to fit these creatures with collars and transmitters. “Oops… there goes my camera.”

Richard Turere was a nine-year-old Maasai boy when he was put in charge of his family’s cattle on the edge of Nairobi National Park in Kenya. At night, after he had herded the animals together into the boma, the fold, they seemed safe. But the lions jumped over the fence and took them.

He tried different things. Fire will scare them, he thought, but the light made it easier for the lions to see inside the fence. They lost their fear of scarecrows within a day. Then he had an idea: using an old car battery, a switch from a scrapped motor bike and a few bulbs from some broken torches, he rigged up a system of flashing lights. When he hung it round the kraal, it looked as if a cowherd was making his rounds with a torch.

It worked: the lions stayed away. This system of flashing lights is now used in large parts of Kenya and Richard Turere gives TED Talks on his invention called “My invention that made peace with lions.”

That peace was desperately needed. The number of wild lions in Africa dropped to very worrying levels in recent decades; a century ago, there were more than 200,000 – now there are about 32,000. At the turn of the century, there were about 2,700 in Kenya, of which only 2,000 are left. They could be completely extinct within twenty years, and they are already gone from large parts of West, Central and Northern Africa.

Nairobi National Park borders on the southern edge of the Kenyan capital, from which it is separated by a fence. A narrow river marks the other side of the park and wild animals can wade through the shallow, narrow stream, in and out of the park. Small Maasai communities live along that rim and graze their cattle, sheep and goats on the plains during the day.

Now and then, the border is the scene of trouble. If the lions attack the cattle here, the cowherds sometimes take revenge. The Maasai are not afraid of killing the predators with their spears. “Cows are valuable assets”, Hans de Iongh, Professor at Leiden University’s Centre for Environmental Studies (CML), explains. “I can understand the call for revenge if a lion steals one. The battle between man and beast continues, but with less damage nowadays.”

In contrast to other African countries, killing wild animals and selling bush meat is against the law in Kenya. “The traditional rite of passage, when a Maasai warrior must prove his courage by killing a lion, is not allowed any more, and that’s made a huge difference”, De Iongh continues. “Because some of the Maasai have switched to wildlife management, the lion population has grown considerably.”

De Iongh, Kenyan PhD student Francis Lesilau from Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and CML PhD student Kevin Groen are doing research in four national parks. “We hope our work will help protect the species. By the late nineties, lions were completely extinct in Amboseli National Par – killed by the Maasai. Gradually, they are returning from the surrounding areas.”

In 2007, Leiden University and Stichting Leo (an organisation for the protection of large carnivores in Africa) and KWS began fitting the lions in Nairobi National Park with transmitters. “In recent years, we have put collars with transmitters on at least twelve. The satellite shows us where the lions regularly leave the park at night and run in to trouble with the locals.”

The programme Living with Lions was launched at the same time; its aim is to train locals, mainly Maasai warriors, as lion rangers. “KWS runs educational programmes too: children learn how valuable this wilderness is, which builds support for management”, says De Iongh.

Evening falls over Nairobi National Park as Nickson Parmisa, chair of the local Maasai committee, herds his sheep and goats safely into the boma. “We’ve installed flashing lights here too. We still lose cattle, but now it’s more often during the day. Our animals drink over there, at the river; the lions are on the other side of the water. If a cowherd does not look out, they’ll seize a sheep or a goat. That’s why we’re glad with the transmitters; it means we know where the lions are, and we can avoid that area.”

It’s still dark when De Iongh, a group of students and PhD student Luka Narisha enter the Meru National Park. Circling vultures give away the presence of a kill. Narisha investigates on foot, disappearing into the undergrowth. It’s not without risk: a lion could be close, guarding its prey. The carcass of a buffalo has already almost been cleared of its flesh. Narisha estimates that it’s been there for a day or two. The students have found what they came for: scat, i.e. lion shit, and start collecting samples.

Two male lions are asleep in the shadow of a small tree in Lake Nakuru National Park. KWS vet Titus Kaitho drives over carefully, takes aim and shoots. The lions jump up, surprised. There’s a feather sticking out of one male’s leg. He manages to draw out the bright pink dart with his mouth, but it’s too late. The tranquillizer is already taking effect and the creature starts to fall asleep.

Everyone rushes out of the cars. A ranger lifts the slumbering animal’s massive head so that Francis Lesilau can fit the collar round its neck. Hans De Iongh and KWS’ Monica Chege fasten the transmitter with nuts and bolts.

It’s already dusk by the time the vet administers the antidote, but the lion is in no hurry to wake up. I want to capture the moment as well as I can and set up a camera on a tripod so I can take pictures via remote control. It’s dark before the lion finally gets up. He heads straight towards my camera and oops…he starts to chew it. Then he runs off with my camera and tripod in his mouth. Three Land Cruisers race after him through the ink-black bush. We can catch glimpses of the speeding creature now and then in the headlights. He only drops the camera and flees once we have him surrounded, following a rowdy chase. A ranger, grinning from ear to ear, picks the device out of the undergrowth.

“I had three today. One scat was really fresh, disgusting, like trying to grab custard.” Messages from Leiden biology students Iris Noordermeer and Dionne Jacobs flood in on the phones via WhatsApp. Nine students, supervised by Kevin Groen, have been collecting data for three months. Groen shares his results with the researchers from Kenya Wildlife Service, Monica Chege, Luka Narisha and Francis Lesilau, who is also associated with Leiden University.

“We count the different kinds of prey, too”, Groen says. “If we don’t want lions snacking outside the park, we must make sure that there is enough prey to keep them happy. We can adapt our strategy to that.” He knows that fences, on the other hand, aren’t always the solution. “In enclosed parks, grazers run into lions and other predators more often, so they are more alert and graze less, which can create a kind of landscape of fear. If there’s less grazing, more trees grow, which certain animals don’t like and that, in turn, affects the population.”

That evening, the researchers hold a “calling station” in the Amboseli National Park. They use an amplifier to play the sound of a prey. As soon as the whimpers of a distressed wildebeest sound across the plain, the first lions prick up their ears. Then more and more join them. The large group gets up quietly and starts walking towards the noise. There are thirteen of them: females, young adults and some young animals that still have spots on their fur. As soon as it’s dark, the researchers return, hoping to find scat here tomorrow. I get a few hours sleep before the alarm goes off at five o’clock.

The next morning, the coast is clear: the lions have been spotted further away. The students fervently fill ampoules and plastic grab bags with the first samples from Amboseli National Park: tell the world on WhatsApp! On the way back, a musty smell starts to fill the car.

Baby lions meet their relatives, video

This 15 May 2019 video from Africa says about itself:

Newborn Lion Cubs Are Introduced to Their Cousins

A lioness returns to her pride with four new cubs, all male. She will take her place among her sisters, who have their own cubs, and together they’ll share suckling duty.

Lions against porcupines, new study

This 2018 video is called Lion, Leopard Fail Hunting Porcupine.

From the Field Museum in the USA:

Lions vs. porcupines

Historical records show what leads lions to hunt porcupines and what happens when they do

May 8, 2019

Summary: Lions can bring down wildebeests and giraffes, but when they try to hunt porcupines, the spiky rodents often come out on top. When lions attack porcupines (it’s usually young male lions that make that mistake), the porcupine’s spines can seriously injure the lion. These injuries can make it impossible for the lions to hunt normally, leading them to hunt livestock or even humans. This study is a deep dive into lion-porcupine interactions over the centuries.

Not much can mess with a lion. They’re four-hundred-pound top predators, bringing down large prey like wildebeests, zebras, and even giraffes. But they’re not invincible — a new study delves into the interactions between lions and porcupines, and shows how these spiky, cocker spaniel-sized critters can come out on top.

“By examining records of lions that have been injured by porcupines, we were able to develop a better picture of the conditions that lead lions to try to hunt porcupines and what happens to the lions who get stuck,” says Julian Kerbis Peterhans, a researcher at the Field Museum, professor at Roosevelt University, and lead author of the new study in the Journal of East African Natural History.

“It’s David and Goliath on the African savanna. The powerful king of the savanna tries to eat a juicy, fat porcupine, but he gets hurt by the quills,” says co-author Gastone Celesia, a volunteer at the Field and professor emeritus of neurology at Loyola University Chicago. “Even though lions are at the top of the food chain, they get injured if they don’t watch what they’re doing.”

African porcupines are large rodents, weighing about about forty pounds, and predators (including humans) seek them out for their tasty meat. But their backs are covered in sharp quills made of keratin, the same material as hair and fingernails. These quills, which can be a foot long or more, can detach and get stuck in the flesh of predators careless or desperate enough to attack the porcupines.

There are stories and records of lions getting injured by porcupines going back hundreds of years — in June, July, and August of 1656,an official from the Dutch East Company in Cape Town wrote in his diary about three different lions that had been stuck with porcupine quills. In many of these cases, the lions’ injuries made it harder for them to hunt or eat. They sometimes turned to easier prey, like cattle or even humans. However, prior to this study, no one had carefully compiled all the records of lions injured by porcupines to better understand the two species’ relationship. The team scoured scientific literature, stories in the popular press, and even YouTube videos looking for evidence of lion-porcupine interactions.

“I think that digging deeply into the historic literature, especially very early sources, has largely fallen out of fashion in the modern era,” says Tom Gnoske, a co-author of the paper and an assistant collections manager at the Field Museum. “There are treasures still to be found, but going back in the written record four centuries, well, that takes some patience and time.”

The team found evidence of about fifty lions that had been injured or killed by porcupines. Several trends appeared to emerge from the data. Lions that lived on harsher, drier terrain seemed to rely more on porcupines for food, at least periodically, perhaps because other prey weren’t available. Young lions were more likely to try to hunt porcupines than older lions. And most of the lions injured by porcupines were male.

“There was a tendency for males to be more often wounded or killed by porcupines — sort of a ‘young foolish male syndrome,'” says Kerbis Peterhans. To compound matters, young males aren’t just taking part in risky behavior, but when they so alone, without other lions to help them if they do get hurt, they are more vulnerable. “In social contexts, a lion can remove porcupine quills with the help of a friend, but this is not possible if they are solitary,” he explains.

In addition to piecing together clues about what drives lions to hunt porcupines despite the risk the rodents pose, the researchers were able to use CT scans to more closely examine the effects that porcupine quills have had on lion specimens. The team scanned the skulls of two man-eating lions from 1965. One had been stuck through the nose with a nine-inch quill, and the other had an inch-long segment of a quill embedded in the nerve pulp of its broken canine tooth.

“We were like detectives,” says Celesia of the forensic work the team did to better understand the injuries that the lions sustained and figure out what the effects on the lions’ hunting abilities would be. “CT scans let us reconstruct what happened in the past.”

The scans showed evidence of bone infections that would have impaired both of these lions’ ability to eat (or, in the case of the lion with a quill through its nose, to smell its prey) — factors that could have contributed to man-eating. Generally speaking, lions attack humans if something’s wrong, like if they’re not physically able to take down their usual prey or if they don’t have enough space or resources to hunt normally.

Kerbis Peterhans notes the importance of the study in better understanding a condition that leads lions to harm people. “Porcupine injuries are an anticipator of attacks on humans, there’s a potential impact on human beings,” he says. And the study has broader ecological significance, too. “We know from forty-plus years of continuous behavioral research on lions since the 1960s that lions prefer large hooved animals as prey, including antelope, zebra, and buffalo,” says Gnoske. “And our data suggest that by the time the lions are relegated to eating porcupines, there’s already a problem with the local food supply. Historic records tell us that when environmental conditions deteriorate, particularly in areas where lions and their preferred prey are already living on the edge, they find themselves in serious trouble with nearby humans or their livestock.”

“One moral of the story is that there no free lunch,” says Celesia. “Even the king of beasts doesn’t eat what he wants without paying a price.”