There was a savannah in Africa where the grass seemed to cover the world. A few rough trees that were spread out randomly provided shelter from the heat. A lion named Jabari lived in this savannah. Anyone looking for him could identify him by his flowing yellow mane. The huge yellow-brown colored cat was also the only adult male ruling his pride.
A lilac-breasted roller bird told Jabari that a couple of young lions were near. Jabari became worried. He was strong, but he was a coalition of only one. There was more at stake than losing the females who hunted for his food. New lions would kill his cubs because they would not care for offspring that were not theirs. His cubs were not old enough to leave and survive on their own.
Jabari went to see his friend Adisa, a chimpanzee, for advice. “The problem with your pride is that you are not equals,” Adisa said. “You fought, defeated, and then chased away the last lion that ruled this tribe. The females did not choose you. You don’t even take part in hunting for food. When the other lions come, the females won’t help you fight. You will be on your own.” Everyone in Adisa’s troop supported his role as a leader. His troop was a mix of family and friends. “If you want to live longer than just a few more years, you’re going to need to change all of that.” The lion listened to his friend, but he did not know what to do with his advice.
When the lion returned to his pride, two lions were there. They were younger than he and each was almost his size. The two lions tried to approach the females. They tried to get near his cubs.
Jabari roared. The younger lions did not notice him approaching and were surprised. Jabari sprinted and assaulted the lion closest to him. He slashed the first lion’s legs with his sharp claws and efficiently wounded him. Jabari knocked the first lion down and bit him.
After being surprised, the second lion had moved away from the spot where Jabari attacked the first lion. By the time the second lion realized what was happening and engaged Jabari, the first lion was too wounded to participate in the fight. The second lion was young and fought hard, but Jabari had more experience and knew where to strike to weaken his opponent. Jabari slashed the second lion where it would hurt him the most. The second lion thought that if he kept fighting, he would be killed. The would-be invaders realized they were defeated and ran.
As Jabari nursed his wounds, he thought about his victory. He felt he had been lucky. He was lucky that he took the two lions by surprise. He doubted he would have won had there been one more lion in that coalition. He noticed how strong the young lions had been and compared it with his lesser strength. He remembered Adisa’s advice.
Jabari ruled his pride until the cubs were old enough to leave and survive on their own. That was a year after the fight. After the last cub left, he left too. It was risky for him to leave and roam alone, but he thought it was riskier for him to stay alone with that pride. He planned to live in a pride again, but it would be ruled differently.
As Jabari roamed, he found other lions and built a coalition. He did not try to lead the group. He convinced the other lions that there should not be a dominant male. He also convinced them to make all of their decisions as equals. He participated in hunts and all the lions shared food fairly. When they found a pride, they defeated the ruling lions together. The coalition was able to keep that pride into their old age.