The maned lioness of Mombo - a scientific approach

Apr 15, 2013 Conservation
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In February 2013, Dr. Erik Verreynne and I led a team to dart and undertake the first ever physical examination of a maned female lion that is resident close to Mombo Camp in Moremi Game Reserve within a pride known as the ‘Western Pride’. All of the adjoining images are of this large maned female which has become known as Mmamoriri.

The pride itself (at the time of the operation) consists of a single male, five females, two cubs approximately three months old and the maned female. Within the region three other such animals are known to exist, one other in another pride close to Mombo, and two much further south just outside the reserve. In addition there was another in the same pride which has since died of natural causes.

At exactly 14h16 Dr Verreynne darted the subject lion with a cocktail of sedatives and anaesthetics. After approximately three minutes she was on the ground asleep and we began to examine her. Measurements of height, skull diameter, canine tooth length and a number of other measurements were taken. She appears to be slightly taller with a larger skull-diameter compared to other females, but this is by no means diagnostic. Blood for hormone and genetic analysis was collected and an examination of her reproductive physiology was performed confirming that she has full intact female genetalia with no evidence of a pseudopenis or anything that would otherwise suggest being a hermaphrodite. Her labia and clitoris are somewhat enlarged compared to a ‘normal’ female.

At this stage and due to the nature of the examination we are unable to determine if she has undescended testicles. With regards to her behaviour she appears to be showing both male and female behaviour, however this may warrant further observation. Once export of the various blood, serum and genetic material has been completed and lab results returned a more accurate diagnosis will be made and circulated.

Simon Dures

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By Simon Dures

Simon is a naturalist by nature and is currently researching lion genetics in the Okavango Delta. He shares some of his exciting tales and stories with us from the field.

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