Lazy lion king? Remote sensing sheds light on lion male hunting behavior

by Mar 28, 2013Big Cats, Wildlife News1 comment

A recent study conducted on lion hunting behaviour suggests there is gender equality despite being a strongly sexually dimorphic species. The results help to redefine the long held belief that lionesses do most of the hunting while their male counterparts stay close to the pride. They are, in fact, equally successful hunters, using vastly different predation strategies.

Observations took place in South Africa’s’ Kruger National Park over a 100 km area in the Satara region. The team, Scott Loarie, Craig Tambling, and Gregory Asner, collared seven lions, five females and two males, with GPS mobile communication using a standard procedure capture and collar process. They carefully monitored and synchronized schedules for recording data over a two-year period between May 2005 and April 2007.

Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR), an optical remote sensing observation technology situated 200m above ground, was utilized to map elevation, woody canopy height and 3-D structures to determine the exact locations of lion predation events. The combination of the two tracking systems allowed them to relate spatial heterogeneity in vegetation structure with predator/prey interactions, something that had previously been less well understood.

A lioness will rest and hunt in the same landscape, making observations of her behavior less challenging. Alternatively, male lions rest in similar vegetative structures as the females, but prefer other predator ambush opportunities that are markedly different than social hunting in the open range.

Results from the observations shed light on male predation that would not have been available without the advanced technology. Past studies suggested that differing prey choice explained much of the differences in male and female hunting behavior in shaping lion hunting success.

This study links male lion hunting behaviour to dense vegetation and shorter lines-of-sight, both offering the male its preference for a greater variety of prey, from smaller kills such as impalas to larger kills like buffalos. These results underline the importance of landscape-scale vegetation structure in shaping predator/ prey impacts. By strongly linking the two, the results conclude that any changes to these vegetation structures could most likely cause changes in the balance of predators and prey where lions are present.

The authors acknowledged that although the results of the study were robust, the conclusions drawn were from a small number of individual lions from the Kruger National Park. “Caution must be taken when considering whether conclusions from such a small sample of individuals can be generalized to other populations and landscapes,” Asner said, adding that, “these patterns may only apply to the area of study and recommend that these results be viewed more as a case study to motivate larger scale studies rather than as a broad generalization of lion hunting behavior.”


By Doris Downes

Source: Loarie, S. R. et al., Lion hunting behavior and vegetation structures in an African savanna, Animal Behaviour (2013)

1 Comment

  1. Ross Wind

    In recent years with the help of new technologies many scientific discoveries shows more and more how extraordinary and complicated are the world’s very top predators the lions. They are to most patient of cats and do spent the most time for observation.

    For centuries so called experts watched the lion’s behaving on open land only and often disregarded local native testimonies. It is known for centuries that lions are more dangerous at night, they are in hunting mode. DESPITE this knowledge, they made conclusions without going at night in deep vegetation because it was too dangerous at the time to make proper observation. DESPITE the fact that adults male lions are only in control of a pride in average less than two years, they have to patrol regularly alone their territory and hunt by themselves, DESPITE the fact before a male was in control he had to hunt by himself, DESPITE the fact after the take over by a stronger lion he as to hunt by himself, DESPITE the facts that there were no consensus amount experts, DESPITE the facts that the lion’s behaving depend on the type of territory, preys and camouflage capacities, DESPITE the fact that male lions are the tallest of the cats and have manes that attract attention when blowing in the wind so in some regions they simply cannot or not often be successful hunters. DESPITE the fact that territorial males needed to be in great shape at all time to protect the pride, yes DESPITE ALL THIS, many concluded that the male lion his lazy.

    Now what technology found out about male lions lately? If there is enough coverage, males preferred to hunt by themselves. The faster Lionesses preferred middle size preys but males preferred the slower large preys so they go hunting elsewhere. Males lions are good ambush hunters went they can get enough cover. In the Kruger Park the males most kills are the adult cape buffalo bull! It takes a great amount of energy to pull down a full grown male very combative cape buffalo, especially in a regular basic, this is far to be lazy isn’t it? The study had more revelations. Comparing the success hunting rates of male and female lions, it was found out it was the same! As a ambush predator (like the tiger) in a proper environment male lions are as successful than lionesses but numbers suggest that they have a better success rate than tigers. There are on the web many single male and female lion kills available. DESPITE all this some people still believed males are lazy and they don’t hunt.

    The question here is why? For some its pure ignorance caused by improper or old data information sources. For other its purposely spread to devaluate the lion in favor of the often overrate tiger. What ever amount of propaganda used. You can make wild tigers as big as the human imagination wanted. The tiger’s canines can grow as long as people wish to be. This of course would not change the very nature of these two great big cats. At the end of the day, the lion still a more formidable animal. Lions are the very top predators, “THE KING OF THE BEASTS”.