It is commonly thought that male lions, while impressive looking, often leave the important duty of hunting down food to the females in the pride. This has led to the popular belief that the king of beasts may be a bit of a slouch on the Serengeti. A new report published in Animal Behavior, however, provoked researchers to view male lions in a different light.
According to a release by the Carnegie Institution for Science (CIS), male lions that live in the dense savannas of Africa make up their share of dinner with ambush tactics. While groups of females are commonly observed chasing down prey, it is unusual to see similar numbers of male cooperate in the same way. This is because experts believe male lions to be less likely to successfully partner with other males and instead must resort to fast, hidden attacks to bring down targets.
Researchers Scott Loarie and Greg Arsner of CIS, along with Craig Tambling from the University of Pretoria, used modern technologies to explore Africa’s dense and often unexplored plains. The team used an aircraft with laser imaging scanners to create a 3D map of a portion of South Africa’s Kruger National Park. It was then discovered that female and male lions preferred different hunting grounds. Female lions opted for vast areas with easy viewpoints, whereas males hid among the thicker brush. Because scientists rarely documented lions in dense foliage, where the animals are hard to find, it led to the belief that male lions slept while the rest of the pride hunted. Researchers now believe that the males’ ambush tactics can be as equally effective, although dependent on the environment.
“By strongly linking male lion hunting behavior to dense vegetation, this study suggests that changes to vegetation structure, such as through fire management, could greatly alter the balance of predators and prey,” Loarie said.
The researchers believe the information will be useful in considering park management and conservation efforts.