Despite what popular
movies with lion cubs will tell you, cubs don’t have charmed
lives. Most of us probably do not know that in real prides,
lion cubs and cubs that grow into adulthood face difficult
challenges. What is life like for the lion cubs in a
Like humans and many
other animals, lion cubs are initially born helpless.
Although they have the ability to crawl the day after they
are born, they remain blind for a week. That means they have
to rely much on their mothers for food and protection. Even
after this sensitive period though, the lion cubs may remain
close and dependent on their mothers for about two more
Mothers of cubs however
are not solely responsible for their young. Since they live
in a pride with other females that are biologically related
to them, lactating lionesses allow lion cubs of other
lionesses to suckle. Apparently, this pride behavior is more
than a gesture of goodwill. The ready access to milk sources
promotes better cub survival and growth. In a way, this is a
Learning to Live Independently
Even when lion cubs pass
the mark of total dependence, they tend to stick close to
their mothers. This is only natural. When they are
introduced to the rest of the pride after two months, they
may feel awkward and uncomfortable especially around the
adult male of the pride. During this time, they also retain
much of their carefree playfulness.
It is only when the lion
cubs reach six months or so that more is expected of them.
This is their weaning period where they also learn not to
rely too much on their mothers. Females in particular learn
to hunt like the other adult female lions. By the time they
reach two years old, they are expected to have mastered the
finer points of hunting and killing prey.
Male lion cubs have more
difficult lives than females. While females are expected to
become huntresses, males are expected to leave their pride
of origin. Only one alpha male must remain with the pride.
Other adult males must search for their own pride.
Lion Cubs Facing
the Challenges of Maturity
Searching for a pride
however is not as easy as it seems. Male lion cubs that have
grown into full adults can’t just walk up to an existing
pride and request for admission. Since most existing prides
already have their alpha lions, a lion that does
not have its own pride must challenge the current alpha male
for the right to become the new alpha male. A challenger
that succeeds in killing or defeating the current male can
takeover the pride and get rid of the male lion cubs in it
to eliminate future competition.
Whether a lion is
physically strong or not, finding an alpha lion to
challenge is a requirement. Lions typically cannot live on
their own because they are constantly in danger of being
attacked by other animals like hyenas.
By all appearances, the
lives and paths of all lion cubs are already predetermined.
The way of life of lions leaves cubs with little choice.
That makes their lives truly tough.