Mating Time in Serengeti

Mated Pair

Pornography warning!

Driving through the Serengeti, one is taken by its immensity, stark beauty, and miraculous abundance of flora and fauna. On our recent visit we sighted more than 60 lions and lionesses, tens of thousands of zebras, wildebeests, African buffalo and gazelles. But, there are few things to get the adrenaline flowing than the sight of a pride of lions on the hunt.

Well, here is one of those few things. We also witnessed four distinct lion-lioness mating rituals, all of them not more than a hundred feet from our Rover and, in some cases, as close as 25 feet.

Yes, it felt a bit creepy to stand in our Rovers, cameras clicking away, as the two animals frenetically copulated.

Our guide kept track of the time between pairings to determine whether the two were at the beginning of their 3-5 day dalliance or at its end. In one case the time between copulations was every seven minutes, repeating this over and over. During this mating period neither will eat. They stay close to each other and when nature’s urge to propagate the species rises yet again, the female will stand up, walk a few paces, and then lay down on her stomach in the grass, whereupon the lion will mount her. The male lightly clamps his massive jaws on the female’s head while he thrusts several times.

Male clamping female

Then as the male ejaculates, the female turns her head, snarls at the male, and he jumps off with a roar of his own.

Snarl and roar

They then lay down to rest before the behavior repeats. We photographed some pairs at the end of their mating time together, too, where 15-20 minutes would elapse between mountings. But always the same snarling after each copulation.

On our last day in the Serengeti, we also had occasion to record another interesting behavior. The female urinates in the grass periodically during this multi-day mating. The male sniffs the ground there for several seconds. He then sits or stands up, curling back his lips and opening his mouth.

Sniffing for scents

This allows the sensory organs in his lip to detect how much longer the female will continue mating. Observing this up-close-and-personal was absolutely fascinating… and a bit creepy. But seeing one of the most essential survival rituals up close and personal is something that every nature lover would want to witness.

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