Sociality and functionality of captive-bred origin prides and a wild pride of African lions (Panthera leo) as part of pre-release monitoring for an ex-situ reintroduction program. (#584)
Assessment of social cohesion and functionality of captive-bred origin prides of African lions (Panthera leo), compared to wild prides is necessary to determine their suitability for ex-situ reintroduction programs. Behaviour of 36 individual lions from two captive-bred origin prides located in Zambia and Zimbabwe, and one wild pride located in South Africa was recorded over a 34 week period. Social network analysis was used to analyse four types of social interactions; greet, social-grooming, play and aggression. Mantel tests were then conducted to determine whether significant relationships existed between the social interaction matrices and sex, age, relativity and a random matrix. Results from initial statistical analysis conducted on the prides found them to be cohesive, density values ranging between 0.49 and 0.96. Mantel test for correlations between play interaction and attributes found positive associations between full-sister, half-sister and age for the two captive-bred origin prides, and half-sister for the wild pride. These results were expected due to the related cubs and sub-adults being central to play matrices. Higher levels of resting behaviour were observed for all prides during midday observations (1100-1400hr), while alert and motion behaviours were higher during morning and afternoon observations. Movement behaviour was observed to be greatest during morning and afternoon observation sessions for all prides, with resting behaviour peaking in midday observations. Maximum observed resting behaviour across prides was similar, ranging between 45.7% and 48.6%, while a larger range was observed for the means of this behaviour (27.5% to 43.5%). Differences in behaviour between prides were found due to temperature and vegetation type which impacted visibility of individual lions. Results indicate that the two captive-bred origin prides are socially functional and exhibit natural behaviours at this stage of pre-release monitoring for an ex-situ reintroduction program.