Have you always been a fan of the lion? Have you ever wondered why the lioness is the one that searches for food? The lion is a strong predator, as seen by the manner it hunts. This article will teach you all you need to know about lion hunting!
Lion : the super-predator
The lion (Panthera leo) is one of the five species of the Panthera genus which is included in the family Felidae, being, with the tiger, the largest representative of the family. It is found in sub-Saharan Africa and in the northwest of India. It is a social species that inhabits savannahs and grasslands, as well as scrub and forest areas, where it lives in pairs, in prides or alone. The lion in the savannah is what we call a super-predator.
Lions have very powerful extremities and a devastating jaw equipped with 3.1 inches canines, which makes them excellent predators. Their weight can easily reach 660 lbs for the males, for a height, from head to tail, of more than 9'8 feet, characteristic that varies according to the place where it lives.
To feed, they do so by hunting as well as chasing their prey, however, they may also use different methods as some individuals are not very fast.
Lions are gregarious animals that are particularly social compared to other felids. A pride consists of females that belong to the same family, their cubs and a small number of adult males. Females generally hunt together. However, they may also come together in pairs or an individual may be a solitary lion, especially males, who may be nomadic for a time and then join a pride later. In the case of females, it is more complicated, because a pride is composed of lionesses of the same family, it is unlikely that they will accept a stranger in the group.
The lion is a keystone species and super-predator, although if given the opportunity, it can be a scavenger and spends most of its time resting, its peak activity occurring at sunset. Currently, the lion is a species classified as "vulnerable" due to habitat loss and conflict with humans.
What does the lion eat?
The lion is a carnivorous species, so its main food source is animal. Its main prey are large mammals, the lion's diet is based on :
- Wild boar
The type of feeding will depend on the availability of their favorite prey, which can range from 440 to over 1100 lbs and their vulnerability. Sometimes they may venture out and try to hunt larger prey, such as giraffes, elephants and, very rarely, rhinoceroses. On the other hand, for example, lions living in Namibia feed mostly on seals, in India, it is not uncommon for them to attack livestock.
Lions are also known to steal food from other predators, such as hyenas and leopards, which they attack until they drop their prey. Being a scavenger is also a good option for lions, as many times they find prey that has died naturally or been abandoned by other predators.
They spend quite a bit of time eating, and they can end up consuming up to 90 lbs of meat while on a prey item, taking short breaks in the shade to continue the meal later, of course, one or more members of the pride stay behind to guard the food.
How does the lion hunt?
The success of obtaining food is based on hunting in groups, and this is what has allowed them to evolve in an environment where they do not have many places to protect themselves as well as allowing the development of their social groups. In this species, generally speaking, it is the lionesses that hunt, because they are much more agile and less visible than the males. They will go hunting as soon as the pride needs to eat.
The lion's hunting technique is based on the idea of cornering their prey, however, as lions are not very good at long runs, they have to be close, less than thirty meters, to the prey before they can strike. That's why they "force" the prey to be closer and once they have managed to get close, they throw all their weight on the animal and, even if some species are much faster than lions, it is extremely complicated to escape once they have been trapped.
This is why they have to take advantage of environmental factors to take cover in the high grasslands or the darkness of the night that makes some prey more vulnerable, as is the case with elephants, they also have to take into account the direction of the wind so that their scent does not alert their prey to their presence.
Females work as a team by surrounding potential prey from different angles of attack and, in this way, they attack the weakest animal in the group. They use strangulation, blocking their mouth and nose to kill their prey, thanks to their powerful jaws. If the prey is small, they can use their powerful paws to deliver the death blow.
In the pride, it is very important that the cubs learn to hunt prey, so when they are three months old they start to accompany their mothers on a hunt, staying hidden in the tall grass and observing the behavior of the adults. Once they are one year old, they start to participate more actively in the hunt.
Do male lions hunt ?
The male lion has long been seen as a slacker. The king of the animals does not hunt, he lets his lionesses take care of it. He fights predators who would dare to threaten the pride. This vision of the felid would however be completely erroneous. The lion would not be dependent on the hunting of the lionesses. It would even be a good hunter. This is at least what a research team suggests in an article published in the journal Animal Behaviour.
Conducted in the Kruger National Park in South Africa, the study is surprising. The African savannah lion is a good hunter: it's just that humans have a hard time watching it in action. The maned felid hunts more at night, and especially in dense vegetation.
The lion is not known to hunt at all. Its main activity during the day is napping. It sleeps for 10 to 15 hours every day. Its job in the tribe is to keep the group safe from predators. According to a recent research, he appears to be just as good a hunter as the lioness.