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22 November 2012
Balloo was born in January of 2012 into the Mukoma Gypsies Pride. Because mothers become very secretive when they have cubs, Balloo was about two months old when we first saw her. She has nine brothers, and cousins all born around the same time. Surprisingly, she’s the only female in her cohort! We think she’ll grow up to be pretty tough, having to fight off so many brothers for food.
Because female lions tend to have cubs at the same time, and nurse each other’s cubs, we’re not certain who Balloo’s mother is. We are pretty sure it is either Little My or Snork, who you can easily recognize by the large cut on her nose. Balloo’s father is one of the males in the Lohay Trio coalition. This trio, named after a former field assistant, is made up of Baha, Tarmo, and Uo – all born ~ 2006. Males band together to form coalitions, and then working in their coalitions they try to take over as many prides as they can. Because all males in the coalition tend to mate, it’s really hard for us to know the exact parentage.
The Mukoma Gypsies pride originated in 2004, when five females left the Mukoma Hill pride and established their own territory. Most female cubs grow up and stay in their natal pride – the pride they were born into. But sometimes, when the pride gets too big and food starts getting tight, a group of sisters will leave and establish their own pride. Mukoma Gypsies has done well — there are currently 7 adult females, and 10 cubs.
Life is really tough as a cub – that’s why we only name them after they have reached their first birthday. At this time, we also make them their own unique ID card. You can see a picture of this ID card – notice the notches we have drawn into the ear, the spots in her eyes, and the unique pattern of “whisker-spots.” Every lion has a unique pattern of whisker spots that we use to tell them all apart – but flecks of color in their eyes (“eye spots”) and the ear notches that they collect over their lifetime help us to ID them. Balloo’s whisker spots are not especially clear, but being the only female cub, she’s still easy to see! She also has a very distinctive spot in her eye, but that’s hard to see unless you are right up close.
The Mukoma Gypsies Pride lives right in the heart of Seronera. They normally hang around the Seronera River anywhere from Downey’s Dam to the Seronera Wildlife Lodge. Sometimes they venture out on the plains near the Serengeti Balloon Safari’s breakfast trees, so keep your eyes open when you’re on safari, and you just might get a close-up of SBS’s very own Balloo!