By Josh Saunders
A conservationist explains truth behind hilarious video that appears to show a lion ROARING WITH LAUGHTER.
Braveheart, the four-year-old African lion, can’t seem to hold back his hysterics as he squints is eyes, bears his teeth and tilts his head back.
However, all is not as it seems as the big cat is actually demonstrating what’s known as the Flehmen Response.
The reaction allows the animal to investigate chemicals and hormones released in urine.
Typically, Lions use this as a way to deduce whether a female is in heat – for other animals it can be used to mark territory or communicate.
Braveheart who lives within a pride at GG Conservation was rejected by his mother at birth, after it’s believed she recognised he had bowed front legs and had to be hand reared.
The footage has attracted more than 27,000 views online since being released over a year ago (DEC 2017) – filmed in the Harrismith, South African sanctuary
Suzanne Scott, conservation director, originally from Leeds, Yorkshire, says that most people believe the line is laughing rather than realising the truth.
She said: “We see that it always looks like smiling even though we know what it really is.
“So the real term for it is Flehmen response or grimace.
“The Flehmen response takes place when one lion, of either sex, sniffs and smells the urine of another.
“Chemicals and hormones contained in the urine elicit the Flehmen response.
“Usually, after smelling the urine patch on the ground or vegetation, the lion that is doing the smelling will lift his or her head, and hold their lips back in a strong grimace for a period of several seconds.
“Each cat has a vomeronasal organ – also sometimes called the organ of Jacobson – located above the palate.
“By sniffing deeply, and then pulling back their lips, they are in fact ‘testing’ the chemical content of the urine left behind by the earlier animal.
“Most people online think that the lion is laughing when they see a video of this.”
GG Lions NPC, is a non-profit subsidiary of GG Conservation whose mission is to love, protect and serve lions in their care.
Braveheart is one of the sanctuary’s 77 lions, both white and tawny, who live in multiple prides throughout the land.
Abandoned by his mother it was unlikely without their help that he would have survived in the wild.
Suzanne said: “Braveheart was rejected by his lion mum, probably because she sensed his weakness at birth, as he has bowed front legs.
“He had to be hand reared to have a chance at life and he has developed the most lovely personality.
“He lives with his pride of five lionesses including his sister Gypsy.
“They have a nice big camp and are all having lots of fun growing up together.
“We need your support to keep helping these lions, we are non profit.”
Within the last 50 years, lion populations have dropped from half a million to a mere 20,000 putting them at severe risk of extinction.
Their main threats to the Big Cat, include: hunting, poaching, habitat loss and disease.
The sanctuary aims to help lions in need – and also to encourage humans to take an interest in protecting the species whose numbers are quickly diminishing.
Suzanne said: “We offer a safe and healthy environment for our lions to flourish in this beautiful natural habitat, to keep the GG lions protected from harm and yet as close to living in the wild as captivity allows.
“We are fortunate enough to be able to capture unique footage of the lions so that lion and animal lovers worldwide can catch a glimpse of the lions’ daily lives – behind the scenes activities and the idiosyncrasies which makes each GG lion unique which would otherwise be impossible to witness
“Our belief is that the more engaged people are in individual lion, their stories and personalities via our videos – the more likely we are as a human population to care deeply about this amazing species, and in turn, help its future survival for generations to come.”
The non-profit is fundraising to cover the running costs of the sanctuary and keep the lions safe.
In addition to offering guided tours, the conservation also rents out a property within the sanctuary that allows for full views of their ‘majestic lions’.
Four years ago, Suzanne took voluntary redundancy to become the director of the conservation at GG Conversation in the hopes of making a difference to the lion species.
She said: “I gave up a life in the UK due to a lifelong passion to do something to help the lions.
“Our belief is that the more engaged people are in individual lions, their stories and personalities via our videos, the more likely we are as a human population to care deeply about this amazing species.
“And in turn, help its future survival for generations to come, as what we humans love, we will protect.
“Lions are not just apex predator killing machines, they are also intriguing animals with feelings and big personalities.”
To help fund: www.gofundme.com/8wyz2xt8 and to find out more visit: www.ggconservation.org .