Zoopedia: "Dominance" inconsistencies.

I'm so nervous posting about this, lol but I'm never gonna stop thinking about it until I do.

A few months back I noticed something in the Zoopedia for the West African lion: its "dominance" status was labelled as "matriarchal."

I was planning on making a post thanking Frontier, and applauding them for standing by scientific accuracy (or at least what is believed by most modern zoologists) despite potential anger from people who are too attached to old information.

However, their dominance status has since been changed to "male."

And that's when I was forced to really look into the logical conventions with how animals are labelled, and the indecisiveness present there.

Now, I don't want to spend much time delving into why "matriarchal" is somewhat suitable for lions. I have already seen zoologists-- honest to god zoologists-- literally harassed, verbally abused, and bullied off of social media for stating new and more accurate information about lion behavior. I'm not joking. "You're shoving your feminist agenda down our throats." "Male lion is the king!" Because "everyone just knows." (...How scientific.) And I could become a target in the same way. These forums have always been so chill and non-political, it would be a shame to see political arguments here. Angry people hitching their sense of masculinity and self-worth on a wild animal is bizarre and disturbing enough... Even worse would be seeing politically charged fights break out on these forums.

All I'll state is that lion behavior is much more complex than recently thought. And modern zoologists are less likely to label animals as "matriarchal" and "patriarchal" based on who the biggest bullies are and who takes away food from other individuals, and more on things like... which sex forms the core of the group, who makes the "decisions-making" (determines the borders of their territory, where they stay and where they go, when they hunt, etc.) who is most important to the group's survival, and which sex is ousted after reaching maturity.

Female lions are the core of the pride, they determine if they will move, and where the territory boundary lies. The male then defends those borders from other males. The lionesses usually choose when they will hunt. Furthermore, it's the males who are kicked out when they mature (though it's both the lionesses and lead male/s who kick them out, not just the lionesses). Males are more aggressive, larger, and will chase the tired females away from their kill. (They let their cubs eat with them though, because they are less threatened by the presence of their own babies.) But their dominance is mostly exerted over other members of their own sex. `

Even when it comes to dominance displays, social dominance behaviors can be complex, and are often different from our over-simplified idea that "one gender dominates the other." There only animal of high intelligence I can think of that works this way, is spotted hyenas-- their hierarchies are so much more strict and cruel than most.

Back to the point, some people have trouble grasping that documentaries are made by human beings with biases and a story to tell, and older documentaries can become quickly outdated, too. (Especially those that try making a "medieval kings and glory" story, like it's a PBS historical drama instead of a nature documentary.)

So where did all this leave me? Well, I'm mostly bemused by the inconsistency on how "patriarchal" structures are labelled in the Zoopedia.

For animals like bonobos, lemurs, and mandrills, they are labelled as "matriarchal" and that's it. You don't see word/phrases like "female dominance." "Female." "Female is dominant."

But with the males, it's all over the place: "Patriarchal." "Male dominance." "Male is dominant." Or sometimes just.... "Male."

Which begs the question. What do these different labels even.... mean? What's the difference? Some might argue that I'm looking too far into it, and few people read the Zoopedia for education. But this WAS marketed as an educational, pro-conservation game, and the lack of clarity ain't great for education.

Personally, I'd argue that it's better to do away with these over-simplified labels entirely. I much prefer the ones you have, like... "one dominant bull per herd, females ranked by age." This has more clarity and specificity. For lions it could be "Matrilineal with male dominance behaviors; females form core of pride, males ranked by aggression." Still a bit simplified, but much more clear than "matriarchal" or "male."

I know this might be a waste of time to some, but I'm always fascinated by the complexity and intelligence of some animals, their social behavior, and even their potential for changing their hierarchal behaviors. And it's a shame when people aren't open to it. This game is a great opportunity to teach, just like how Zoo Tycoon 1 taught me a lot about animals when I was a child.

Are there other animals you guys think are over-simplified, or should be re-labelled?
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I think there are certainly some innacuracies regarding social groups - I think PZ is simplified like one male per group in most herd animals...which mostly does not work like that in the wild. The same aply to the dominance in PZ - it is simplified. I am not sure why - but I suspect that it is because the devs are mostly just devs, not really zoologists. Of course they could get help (and I am sure they do) from a real zoologist, but as the research is always changing with new information, then going back and in between alot of zoologist have different opinions on things, I guess it is safer for them to just label most animals male dominant and be done with it.

Not that it is right, but I guess they might see it as not worthy to invest the time in and perhaps invest it on something else. Who knows.

I agree with the lion situation though, a male lion is stronger than a lioness, but when they join forces, they could easily kill the male. So it is their decision to tolerate him in their pride. I have seen videos of group of lionesses to kill the male once they found him useless.

Edit: Of course under those videos you see alot of comments (mostly from kids or insecure men) about how that lion was old or sick or whatever, that a TRUE king would never be deafeted by FEMALES and stuff like that), those people do not realize that these lionesses could in theory take down a healthy male lion, but why would they? They all work together as a pride. A bit offtopic, but yea I find these comment ridiculous too.
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Yeah those comments can get way out of hand. That's why I was so nervous bringing it up 😬 Bringing up anything controversial and non-game related isn't really my first choice. But yeah, I couldn't stop thinking about animal behavior and the zoopedia for some reason. I agree that the devs are probably just prioritizing their time carefully, and this isn't really a top priority for obvious reasons. 😅 Found it weird they bothered to change that part of the Zoopedia though. (Unless I'm totally imagining things and it was never different to begin with?) It does pique my curiosity on how they managed their research too.

In the end I guess it's easier to simplify things, in a way that says "don't put several males together." Because I think that's often how real zoos do it.
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