Lions are animals beloved across the world. Unfortunately, at the current rate of habitat loss and poaching, African lions could be completely extinct by 2050 (AfricanImpact) and are classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List Assessment. As a result, more resources need to be allocated towards conservation and lion welfare. Current methods focus on either personality or stress physiology of big cats, but never both. Yet, recent studies have suggested that considering animals as individuals and not as a species by combining stress physiology and personality may be essential to animal welfare management. In a recent study conducted by Vaz et al., the key personality dimensions of 22 African lions were compared with their measured cortisol levels to assess factors that influenced their personality and stress physiology.
The team used our DetectX Cortisol Kit (K003-H) to measure the concentration of glucocorticoids in the 22 African lion fecal samples. The researchers found two reliable personality dimensions for African lions, dominance, and agreeableness. They also identified key factors (sex, age, and location) that may influence their personality.
African males were shown to be much more dominant than females, while male and female lions did not differ in agreeableness. Agreeableness was significantly inversely correlated with age, suggesting that it decreases as lions get older. Age and dominance only slightly negatively correlated, while core eye temperature and agreeableness or dominance did not significantly correlate.
These findings highlight the advantages of a combined approach of big cats’ personalities and their stress physiology, as many traits help lions cope with their surroundings. In situations such as stressful veterinary procedures, understanding the difference in personality of each lion can aid in designing or providing them with the best resources to alleviate their stress.