The Lioness’s Tail

So another business fable from that hub of the commercial universe… Whitemark (Population 170) Yes, we know all about big business here! And especially the sort of thing that makes the  giant multi-million dollar wheels o’commerce turn.

Sometimes you can see things in jam jar that you can’t see in the whole ocean.

Like jam, for example. (This is a deep and meaningful revelation, full of insights into the human condition and universe. More like whiskey marmalade than mere jam, in fact. Ponder deeply on it – or spread it on toast, your choice.)

Anyway this tale from the wise Baviaan comes from the wide Savannah, where there was grass,  occasional and scattered flatcrown trees. Here there were vast herds of antelope, thunders of buffalo and wildebeest, a few elephant (as they like trees). There was also at least one proud of lions, and probably many more prides.

Tch. Do you want to teach me grammar or hear tall tales? Choose, Bezonian!

One proud many pride… and they always fall for that one.  Anyway, now that you’ve all quite finished interrupting me, It’s a story that might have implications for the dairy industry, the recording industry, the publishing industry, and the girl scout cookie industry. The tail of the lioness could relate to anything where you have one group of primary producers, and a large number of critters who rely on them. Like what you do with marmalade you’ll have to decide what to do with it. Muffins can be an inspired choice. I believe this is what is called satire, so don’t take too literally. It takes some liberties with ecology and business.

Now in those distant and idyllic times, the lions did well. The lionesses of the proud, as nature intended (at least so the lion says) were pointed at the game by the lions, the lioness hunted the antelope some other game, and it was plentiful, and the lion got a 10% cut of each kill. For this he kept the other creatures of the Veldt who wanted a piece of the action at bay until he and lionesses had pigged out, and provided other pleasurable services that a lion might from time-to-time provide. And, as there were more than 10 lionesses, he did very well. There was still ample left for the other creatures who could not pull down an antelope by themselves.  The hyena – a much maligned creature, performing a valuable service on the wide plains, one that prides of lions couldn’t be bothered to do themselves, cracking bones with jaws that are actually stronger than a lion’s, and a remarkable pack structure (quite corporate, in fact), but sadly lacking in strong hindquarters, making running down prey for themselves very difficult, ate some. And then the jackal would spread the remains about so the little creatures of the veldt might get a bit and the nutrients be returned to wide area and the grass grow well. And they all flourished and the veldt was a good place, if you weren’t an antelope.

It went wrong when the elephant moved to New York, apparently to become mailmen because the benefits were better, which you might think had no effect on lions. But it is elephants who knock down trees, and most of the antelope in those parts were grazers. At the same time the jackal had a bit of how is your Aunt Clara, and figured they got a better dinner in a mob, than one at a time rushing in to grab a bit of ripe antelope from the under a Hyena’s nose. Where there used to be a couple of thousand solitary jackal, there were now four big packs, who could harass the hyenas, and get a better share. Of course they weren’t as good at their old job, which played havoc with the distribution. Pretty soon nutrients weren’t being spread about, so some bits of the Savannah turned to desert and in others the umbrellas of thorn trees made a speckledy net overhead. It made the lionesses work harder.

To make matters worse, the Hyenas took a long hard look at the Jackal, and organised into six big packs to deal with them. And when the lions told them to back off the kill, they told him what the big bad wolf told the little pig to make him go wee wee wee all the way home.

Now it could have got ugly. Should have. Because protecting the lioness’s kill was why the lion got 10% of their kill… only the hyena said, “Hey dude, ha ha ha, what about instead of a nasty fight in which you get killed and we get hurt, ha ha ha, we make a deal? You do a bit of token roaring ha ha ha, to tell the bimbos you’re doing the job, let them get on with killing antelope, and we’ll all get fat. Well, you and us. But it’s that or fight, and you can’t win, ha ha ha. Oh, and we’ll point you at the game, harder to find in this half-forest, so you need to crack the bones so we can get the marrow. And if you don’t play ball, well we’ll watch and frighten the game off from your lionesses. Without our co-operation you’ll get nothing at all. We can’t hunt, but we can stop anyone else hunting.”

The lions thought about it. “If I don’t chase you off, you’ll get more of the kill and I’ll get hungry. No deal.”

And the Hyena pack-leader said: “Ha ha ha. Just take 15% instead of 10%.”

And thus it was. The trees got thicker and forest species grew dominant,  and the desert areas grew barer, with only scattered antelope there, and solitary browsers picking leaves off trees. The lions still did Okay, but they found they had 15% of much less, the lionesses grew skinny and weak, the hyena who had done very very well at first, started to know hard times. The Jackal starved, as did the many creatures who had once depended on them. The Hyena started saying, “Ha ha ha we’ll need a bigger share…”

And up above in the great web of trees vast troops of monkeys laughed back down at them, with only occasional leopard to eat them.  And so it was that one day, after a particularly long hungry fruitless hunt the lionesses all came home early. And there was the lion, instead of finding fresh prey or guarding yesterday’s kill, shall we say ‘in flagrante Panthera pardus’ with a half eaten chimpanzee on the ground.

“What are you doing?” chorused the lionesses, barring one who said ‘that’s it, I’m outa here! Fancy giving tongue and cuddling up really close to a leopard, for a bit of chimpanzee, while we’re off working!’

And the great lion, who had sometimes said what good hunters they were, which made a girl feel good about herself, roared in outrage. “Why you idle useless women! I’ve a good mind to beat all of you, and certainly her. Here I have been hard at work, looking after your best interests, finding out how to take advantage of all the game in the trees, and learning how to give the kiss of life and do the Heimlich manoeuvre in case you accidentally swallow a mango or papaya up there while hunting your new prey, and you dare to question me?”

“So good!” fawned a lot of the lionesses. “The Heimlich manoeuvre and the kiss of life, just for ugly useless little us! Beat up that wicked slag.”

Fortunately the wise lioness had departed, and was off working on how to climb trees. It’s not easy for a lioness, but it’s a lot more difficult for a lion, because they’re fat and heavy, and not really used to the environment up there either. But hyena can’t climb at all. When a lioness walks around the forest and sees these new hairy nether-quarter plants, with weak underground ‘ha… ah…aha,’ you know they’re trying. And neither can jackal. They are just dying out. There are still some antelope on the deserty bits for things to be done the old way, although the forest grows steadily. Some other lionesses are learning how to hunt like leopards. It’s not easy pickings in the tree tops, but most of what you catch is yours, not just 5.1% like the hard working lionesses used to get. They lose about 30% to vultures, and if the lions want eat well, they might have to take to vulture chasing or herding chimpanzees.

See…15% of seventy percent is better deal than 15% of six (or eight or ten or even 15 percent, which is all the lions used ‘keep’ the Hyena from),  as I might point out to any foolish lioness who might believe in the Heimlich tale.  The lion never got more than 2.25% of the total. AT BEST. To get the same percentage of the kill (unless they really do a LOT more than they used to) about 3.18% of the treetop lioness’s kill, would actually be same take. In reality, the lions should probably ask for around 2.5%….  NOT15%, to stay just as fat. Yes, the lionesses are still learning to hunt the tree-tops and still need to hunt in the desert, but 15% is around 6 times what the lordly big maned lions used to get, if the hunting is as good. If they want 15% of any sensible lioness’s kill they’re going to have learn lots of new tricks, and take to biting hyenas and not just a bit of token roaring and slinking off to meet them at the bar later.

And no, I have a tummy ache from eating too much jam. I will not interpret this parable for you. Think for yourselves.

10 comments

  1. I must not read Dave’s posts at work. I must not read Dave’s posts at work. I must not read Dave’s posts at work. I must not…

    Ah heck with it. Wonderful analogy, and I’m still giggling over it.

  2. I think the hyenas are gathered round under the trees, as they’re the only ones who can crack those yummy bones that have suddenly taken to falling out of trees.

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