A three-legged lion made a record swim for the sake of procreation (6 photos + 1 video)

Category: Animals, PEGI 0+
21 June 2024

The lanky African lion Jacob (he lost his paw in a poacher's trap) accomplished the impossible: he and his brother Tibu swam across the Kazinga Channel in Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda. The length of the swim was 1.5 kilometers. The canal is infested with crocodiles and hippos. Lions do not swim such distances. But if you want to live, you won’t get so excited!

Scientists who have been observing Jacob for a long time explain this record by saying that the lions were forced out of their territory and they urgently needed to find a new place to live and partners for mating.

Jacob and Chibu had lost the battle for territory to the other lions, having survived at least two fights, and it was dangerous to remain in their old place. In addition, according to researchers, the population of females in the park has greatly decreased - there are half as many of them as males. The brothers had only one choice - to try their luck on the other side of the canal. And they took a risk.

Three-legged lion named Jacob/ © Dr. Alex Braczkowski

The lions did not succeed in their plan the first time. They made three attempts to swim, but each time they were in danger in the form of some huge crocodile or hippopotamus and had to return. Only the fourth attempt, which they made late at night, was successful. Apparently, all the crocodiles were fast asleep by this point.

Scientists led by Alexander Braczkowski from Griffity University (Australia) tracked Jacob and Chibou's journey through the canal using a drone and a thermal imaging camera. The distance covered by the lions is the longest documented water journey of African lions. A real record! After all, before this, only short distance swims of up to 100 meters were recorded.

Desperate times call for desperate measures!

© Dr. Alex Braczkowski

“It was quite dramatic,” Alexander Braczkowski told the New York Times. “It's like two tiny heat signatures crossing the ocean.”

In 2020, Jacob was caught in a poacher's trap, which tore off his left hind leg. It's a good thing he was wearing a satellite collar, which allowed the rangers to locate him and save his life.

Four years later, Jacob proved he was strong enough to navigate the Kazinga Channel, which was infested with hippos and crocodiles up to 5 meters long.

Crocodiles can kill lions - especially in water, where cats are also at risk of drowning. Lions can swim, but usually do so only when absolutely necessary - in search of food or a mate.

Kazinga Channel in Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda

The brothers risked their lives in a desperate pursuit of a female for mating after hearing her roaring calls from the other side

Uganda's Kazinga Canal connects Lake George and Lake Edward and is a tourist attraction, with popular boat cruises offering wildlife viewing opportunities

According to Alexander Braczkowski, Jacob and Tibu made the longest recorded lion swim, covering a distance of approximately 0.9 to 1.2 miles (1.5 to 2 km). This may seem like an extreme effort to find a female, but mating opportunities for males are becoming increasingly limited.

There are twice as many males as females in Queen Elizabeth National Park, partly due to the deliberate poisoning of lionesses (and cubs) from which the population has still not recovered.

In Africa, lions face threats such as retaliatory killings in response to livestock deaths and poaching, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). Alexander Braczkowski estimates there are 40 lions in the park today, up from about 70 in 2018.

Jacob and Tiebout's incredible journey is described in a paper accepted for publication in the journal Ecology and Evolution.

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