Sintika, a healthy, 3.5-year-old lion with a magnificent mane and pink nose, strays from his family in Namibia, stopping at the edge of a busy national highway to watch cars whiz by. Perhaps he’s getting curious about what lies beyond his home in Mudumu National Park, which protects his species from the dangers of human society.
He hasn’t felt the need to cross the road, but he’s young, inexperienced, and unaware of the ramifications of making that decision. A particularly brazen member of another pride recently learned the hard way when he was struck and killed by a motorist.
For now, Sintika is safe—as long as he keeps away from the road and close to his natal territory. But he can’t stay there forever.
Soon, in a rite of passage, his mother and aunts will oust him from home. He’ll be tasked with surviving away from the adults he’s depended on, locating a suitable territory, and taking over his own pride—a sure-fire way to spread his genes and contribute to a healthy future for his species.
Based on Panthera camera trap photos, we know that Sintika has been solitary—he has no siblings or cousins of the same age and gender—for at least six months. All young males, just shy of prime body mass and confidence levels, face enormous risks during this period. But Sintika is doubly disadvantaged.
Our partner Kwando Carnivore Project gave him a monitoring collar just in time. His journey will be rife with challenges as he weaves in and out of protected areas and human-dominated landscapes. Should Sintika give into the temptation to hunt domestic livestock—easy prey—he risks being killed in retaliation for the severe financial losses to a farmer.
Kwando Carnivore Project is changing hearts and minds near Mudumu, providing materials for dozens of lion-proof corrals to safeguard cattle, and swaying more and more farmers to choose this security system as an alternative to killing lions. As a result, more adult lions are dispersing to other Namibian parks.
Sintika is among several dispersal males currently being monitored by Panthera and Kwando Carnivore Project. Following them will help us gather important insights about conservation areas needing more attention. We know one thing: Until connected landscapes between protected areas are properly supported by national governments and global funding agencies, lions like Sintika will be imperiled, and the flow of their genes will be stymied.
I don’t know what the future holds for Sintika. But I’m glad our partner’s actions may have made his path a little safer.
Follow Sintika’s story—and those of other lions we’re monitoring—by signing up for our quarterly lion newsletter here.
Read a series about the Horseshoe Pride, a group of male lions we've been following for a few years here.
Learn more about lions and the work Panthera is doing to save them here.