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A Lion Coalition of Seven in Serengeti

Tanzania has the largest lion population in the world, which is estimated to be between 14,000 and15,000 individuals living in the country's national parks, game reserves, and conservation areas. And about 3,000 of these lions call the Serengeti ecosystem home. I’ve seen large prides of lions in my many years of safaris and game drives in the bush. In fact, you won’t even need to look hard when you’re driving to/from Serengeti and Ngorongoro especially during the calving season. You’ll easily see them relaxing and sleeping by the roadside or atop kopjes (kopjes are a distinctive feature of the Serengeti landscape and are often referred to as 'islands in a sea of grass'). If you’re lucky you may spot up to 50 lions in just one day like during our drive from Ndutu to central Seronera in February.

As I’ve mentioned before no two safaris are alike, each trip is a unique experience, and there’s always something new to witness despite having gone to multiple safaris in the past. I had four new experiences from our most recent safari last month and this is one of them. It was my first time to witness a lion coalition of seven males. I’ve seen coalitions before but definitely not made up of seven lions. They usually consist of three to four male individuals. A coalition is a band or fraternity of male lions that are often brothers, half-brothers, or cousins that grew up together as cubs and were kicked out of the pride about the same time. Occasionally, non-related males join in. But whether blood-related or not, these males form a strong bond with one another. These unbreakable bonds of brotherhood and friendship are reinforced with their struggles to survive especially in the early days of being away from the pride.

Here are some photos of the coalition of seven that we encountered by the road to Seronera in central Serengeti. They may seem lazy and sleepy but life for a male lion is not a walk in the park. It’s a day to day struggle for survival out there in the wild. Many times I’ve prayed that they catch the zebra, wildebeest, or gazelle when witnessing a hunt. You may feel sorry for the prey when you watch a documentary on TV, but when you see an actual hunt in the wild you’ll cheer for the lions. Forming coalitions is necessary to better defend territories and future prides, for more protection against other dominant territorial lions, and for more successful hunts that ensure survival.

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