Lions – Ngorongoro Crater

History: Lions in the Ngorongoro Crater went through a population bottleneck in 1962, caused by an epizootic die-off that left only a handful of survivors. Over the next decade three different coalitions of males established and sired offspring. The Crater lion population recovered rapidly, and by the mid-80’s there were over 100 lions. The successful prides on the Crater floor gave rise to large male coalitions.

Already at a young age, such large coalitions were able to take over as resident males in some, or all, of the Ngorongoro Crater prides. Over the next number of years, they would sire all progeny, until they got ousted by their own grown-up sons. Hence the Ngorongoro Crater lions are descendants of long incestuous cycles, with sons producing cubs with their mums, aunties, sisters, daughters and grand-daughters.

Current: Current: By Oct 2016 there are five prides, and a total of 70-75 lions on the Crater floor. Of those, 38 are cubs or juveniles (less than 3 years old), and it is likely a number of them will not reach adulthood.

After a number of years of fewer lions with poor reproductive performance, we are now seeing a positive trend. A male takeover of the largest Crater pride, Munge, in 2013 led to a cub boom. Soon also the other prides followed suit with good cub bearing success. Genetic results will soon confirm, but we are tentatively hopeful that this boost in fertility may be due to new genes flowing in! Another possible and/or additional reason is the pride sisters’ ability to synchronize births following male take-overs. With many cubs born together, and being raised in well protected crèches, their chances of survival increases.

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Eugene to the left and his mate Genius to the left. September 2016, in the Ngorongoro Crater. Two of the four males still present in the Gene-flow coalition. 

Table lion population Ngorongoro Crater

Ngorongoro Crater Population, by October 2016. Click to enlargen.