Reproductive biology of a pride of lions on Karongwe Game Reserve, South Africa
The reproductive biology of a pride of lions (Panthera leo) was studied on the 8500 ha Karongwe Game Reserve from 1999 to 2005. Over this period, the pride consisted of between four and 11 lions with a paired coalition of adult males during the first three years and a single adult male for the next three years.We recorded shorter than normal interbirth intervals, high birth rates of 1.3 cubs/lioness/year, very high cub survival rates, and subadults leaving the pride at young ages. This translated into substantially faster growth rates than are typical in large lion populations in ecologically similar circumstances such as Kruger National Park, but are similar to those of lions in Serengeti National Park. These demographic characteristics were probably induced initially by a lack of intense intraspecific competition and high prey availability, but population stability was maintained through the removal of young subadults by management. Interestingly, variability in conception rates between lionesses resulted in lower growth rates than have been found in other similar reintroduced lion populations. These demographic traits characterize many of the small reintroduced lion populations, and call for appropriate management to avoid the consequences of high predator densities.
Key words: birth rate, inter-birth interval, intraspecific competition, pride size, small enclosed reserves.