Africa, Tanzania, Lions; lion sex, #3

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Female lions have a gestation period of about three and a half months. They can hunt right up until they deliver their kittens. The young are like house cats, small and sightless at birth. They are in a shallow burrow, thick cover, or a depression and don’t appear outside this den until they are several weeks old. The female will leave the pride during this period and stay quite solitary. The youngsters are out with the pride at about eight weeks and are weaned, or at least nursed less, at about 5-6 months. they can eat some meat at about three months. As mentioned the males and females both interact with the cubs but the males are pretty aloof parents. Feeding and teaching both are female roles. The males do protect young from all sorts of hazards. Young stay with the females for about two years and then go their own way; males to a consortium and females to form their own pride.

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Lions don’t really care where they are and who might be around. They eat and sleep and mate in the road – much as the Beatles suggested on the White Album. Wherever there are tourists and lions there can soon be a gaggle of Land Cruisers and cameras.
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Females come into heat (in the wild) just about every two years. They are not coy or shy in letting the males know they are ready and the breeding/dominant male spends the next week or so at her side. Mating occurs several times an hour for several days. Females need repeated coitus in order to ovulate. The other males in the group may be nearby but the other females might not be evident.
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The male stays close. It is the leader of the pack that gets to breed so the female has what are presumably the best chromosomes heading her way. The young will begin hunting at about two years of age and will be full-grown at four years. Male young are chased off by both females and males sometime after two years of age.
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Wherever the female goes the male follows. She will initiate contact by walking around the male or by brushing up against him. They will both cat nap in between sexual bouts.
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Horses, giraffes, goats, zebras and lions use the Flehmen response to determine the pheromone makeup of the urine left by a female. There are scent molecules in the urine that let the males know if the female if ready for mating. There is an organ (the Jacobson’s organ or vomeronasal organ) at the base of the nasal cavity that makes the assessment. The grimace is needed to get the air with the pheromones to reach the organ – it is not an aggressive face at all.
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Once the condition of the female is ascertained and the males had determined who is dominant the mating gets going – over and over again. The repeated coitus prompts the female to release eggs and the 4-5-6 day breeding episode, with 25-75 sex acts a day insures that those eggs are fertilized. In the first day or two there may be 4 to 8 matings each hour. The frequency drops off a bit during the last day or two.
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Females tend to favor a territory with a large consortium of males. This arrangement allows for a more stable environment overall and increases the competition among males for breeding rights. the best of four or five males is often better than the best of two or three. Whatever the arrangements and the numbers about 11-12 weeks after the mating sessions the kittens will be born and a new group of lions will start on a hazardous trail toward their future and perhaps success as a member of a pride or a consortium of males.

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