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Artificial bonding

Reserve managers often prefer male coalitions over single males because they are thought to have higher survival rates and provide better game viewing opportunities. For this reason unrelated males are often artificially bonded to form coalitions. Artificial bonding can be a time consuming process. Some males are reluctant to bond and there have been cases where artificially bonded males have separated immediately after release. In some cases more dominant males have killed smaller or younger males that they were being bonded with. The following protocol is recommended for the artificial bonding process:

1. Males being artificially bonded should ideally be of similar size and age.
2. Facilities specifically designed for artificial bonding (Figure 1.) should be utilised to ensure that the bonding process is successful. The males being bonded should be in very close proximity to each other. Artificial bonding facilities should ideally be constructed within a larger boma.

Phase 1

3. For the first phase of the bonding process the two males should be kept in separate adjoining compartments for three to four weeks. They should be fed at the same time intervals and their behaviour should be carefully monitored.
4. The males should start to show signs of bonding two weeks into the bonding process. This will be indicated by a decrease in aggressive behaviour towards one another and the two males lying in close proximity to one another.
5. The two males should be fed in close proximity to each other and levels of aggression should be monitored.
6. If the bonding procedure is progressing well then the two males will start to show signs of socialising that typically include:
a. the two males lying in close proximity to one another on either side of the fence
b. licking through the fence.

Phase 2

7. Once these signs are observed then the gate separating the two compartments can be opened so that the two males are now in contact with one another. The two males should now be closely monitored. Even if they initially respond well to one another, fighting could easily flare up, especially during feeding times. Phase two begins once the gates are opened and should not run shorter than three weeks.
8. The two males should be fed separate carcasses for one more week following the opening of the gate. Thereafter a single carcass should be thrown into the boma.
9. Once the males are observed to feed on a single carcass without conflict then the bonding process can be regarded as successful.

Phase 3

10. Phase three can then be initiated and both males can be released into a larger boma. If they are observed to pair up in the larger boma then the bonding process can be considered successful and they could be released into a larger reserve. If the males are observed to remain apart after release from the artificial bonding facilities then the bonding procedure can be considered unsuccessful. Phase three should not run shorter than 3 weeks.
11. It should be noted that some males are temperamental and unlikely to bond. Repeating the bonding procedure or attempting the bonding procedure with a different potential coalition partner is unlikely to work.