Viral Photos Don’t Show Lions Mating, Just Males Bonding

Earlier this week, we wrote that the mating lions seen in Botswana may have been a male and a maned lioness.

Female with manes are regularly seen in northern Botswana, where they may carry a genetic disposition toward the phenomenon.

But Nicole Cambré, who recently photographed the lions on safari, provided National Geographic with video and photo that show both lions are indeed males.

Photos of male lions in Botswana have caused an online sensation. Photograph by Nicole Cambre/REX/Shutterstock

“I am 99 percent certain that both lions I photographed are male,” says Cambré.

Experts who viewed this video agreed. “It is definitely two males,” says Luke Hunter, president of the big-cat conservation group Panthera.

“It’s not that unusual,” Hunter adds by email. “It’s the same thing as when a dog is a little frisky and humps its owner’s leg!”

Hunter explains that males in the same group are “extremely close and bonded. They engage is constant affectionate behavior which, occasionally, extends to a little dry humping. It’s not reproductive, nor is it homosexual.”

Kathleen Alexander, an African lion expert and professor at Virginia Polytechnic Institute in Blacksburg, had a similar reaction.

“The video clearly identifies that the two individuals are indeed males.”

The behavior seen between the males is not considered mating, experts say. Photograph by Nicole Cambre, REX, Shutterstock

Alexander, who has studied lions in Botswana for 25 years, says she has never witnessed two males behaving this way.

“This is no different, however, from what we see commonly in domestic animals or in wild animals in captivity,” she says. “Animals can be plastic in their behaviors, motivated by a variety of of drivers.”

“We are still trying to learn why wild animals do what they do—a complex process.”

This article was first published by National Geographic on 22 Apr 2016.


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