Exploring African lion (Panthera leo) behavioural phenotypes: individual differences and correlations between sociality, boldness and behaviour

E. J. Dunston, Jackie Abell, R. E. Doyle, M. Evershed, R. Freire

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    Increasing our understanding of personality, at an individual and group level, is crucial to the pre-release assessment of social species within ex situ reintroduction programs. We conducted the first exploration into the personality of a captive-origin pride of African lions (Panthera leo), assessing behavioural variations and consistencies in daily activity, social and hunting behaviour, and boldness. Data were collected via direct observations, while a species-specific protocol for testing boldness, using playbacks, was developed. Differences in sex, age and session time for the activity budget were evaluated using Pearson correlations and repeated-measures ANOVA, while social interactions were analysed using social network analysis. Spearman’s correlations were conducted to assess for associations between boldness scores, activity and sociality. The two boldness tests provided a range of scores per lion, indicating that the test was effective. Correlations and variations in individual behaviour indicated that adults and sub-adults have specific roles within pride behaviour. Correlations between boldness and activity and social behaviours provided information on the role of individuals, allowing investigation into the behaviour of a dominant and a social keystone. Our study indicates that evaluating various aspects of behaviour in conjunction with boldness has the potential to assist the pre-release assessment of a pride within an ex situ reintroduction program.

    The final publication is available at Springer via http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10164-016-0473-9
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)277-290
    JournalJournal of Ethology
    Issue number3
    Early online date1 Jun 2016
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2016


    • Personality
    • Pre-release assessment
    • Reintroduction
    • Social network analysis


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