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:  By April 2020 there are a total of 65-75 lions on the Crater floor. There are eight prides, of which five consists of only 2-3 adult females. The proportion of adult lions, 4 years and older, is 47%. Of those, 38 are cubs or juveniles (less than 3 years old), and it is likely a number of them will not reach adulthood.

Between 2014-2018 numerous cubs were born and many survived into adulthood. Thereafter reproduction has dropped – an effect of the lionesses busy raising juveniles, and commotion and infanticide following male takeovers.
This year we anticipate finalising genetic results that will confirm if the males appearing in the Crater in 2013 – the Geneflow coalition – were outsiders that managed to bring in new genes into the interbred Crater population. Their entry did lead to a cub boom with high survival. A possible reason for 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.

In 2018 and 2019 we documented the arrival of two independent cases of nomadic males that originated from the Ndutu stronghold; NguvuKazi and Laipangwa. who were able to successfully disperse across Ngorongoro’s multiuse area with the protection of a ‘corridor of tolerance’.

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By collaring Noongoile we hope to learn more about the Lake pride’s movements in and out of the Crater, and further have the GPS-collar positions assist us to warn herders if Noongoile gets into livestock areas. Noongoile was collared by our skilled Lion Monitoring & Conflict Officer Roimen (to the right) in January 2020.

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

Ngorongoro Crater Population, by April 2020. Click to enlargen.