An assessment of African lion sociality via social network analysis: prerelease monitoring for an reintroduction program.

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Current zoology, ISSN: 1674-5507, Vol: 63, Issue: 3, Page: 301-311

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Dunston, Emma J.; Abell, Jackie; Doyle, Rebecca E.; Kirk, Jacqui; Hilley, Victoria B.; Forsyth, Andrew; Jenkins, Emma; Freire, Rafael
Oxford University Press (OUP)
Agricultural and Biological Sciences
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The wild population of the African lion continues to decline, requiring alternate conservation programs to be considered. One such program is ex situ reintroduction. Prior to release, long-term monitoring and assessment of behavior is required to determine whether prides and coalitions behave naturally and are sufficiently adapted to a wild environment. Social network analysis (SNA) can be used to provide insight into how the pride as a whole and individuals within it, function. Our study was conducted upon 2 captive-origin prides who are part of an ex situ reintroduction program, and 1 wild pride of African lion. Social interactions were collected at all occurrence for each pride and categorized into greet, social grooming, play, and aggression. Betweenness centrality showed that offspring in each pride were central to the play network, whereas degree indicated that adults received (indegree) the greatest number of overall social interactions, and the adult males of each pride were least likely to initiate (outdegree) any interactions. Through the assessment of individual centrality and degree values, a social keystone adult female was identified for each pride. Social network results indicated that the 2 captive-origin prides had formed cohesive social units and possessed relationships and behaviors comparable with the wild pride for the studied behaviors. This study provided the first SNA comparison between captive-bred origin and a wild pride of lions, providing valuable information on individual and pride sociality, critical for determining the success of prides within an ex situ reintroduction program.