April 29, 2013

Lion Army: Battle to Survive Facts

  • Lionesses carry out most of a pride’s hunting and raise their cubs with almost no assistance from the males.

  • When a lion pride stalks prey, members will spread out to partly surround their target, then sneak to within 100ft before rushing their victim, hitting it with their paw or seizing it.

  • In the Kruger National Park lions show a preference for wildebeest during the wet season and buffalo in the drier months.

  • Buffalo, giraffe, sable and gemsbok have been known to kill lions. These four species, together with hippopotami, present the largest threat to predators due to their size, strength and aggressive nature.

  • A lion’s physiology is well suited to eating meat. Their sharp carnassial teeth (pre-molars and molars) cut and chew, while their large canines assist in grasping and biting prey. Serrated retractable claws are an added advantage, enabling a lion to hook and grip its prey.

  • A lion’s unique whisker pattern is one way of identifying individual members of a pride. Whisker spots found below and adjacent to the nose are constant throughout life and similar to fingerprints in humans. Nose marks and cuts or nicks on the ears may represent other distinguishing characteristics, but these are less reliable as they alter over time.

  • Lions are opportunistic feeders and have been know to consume unusual prey like termites, locusts, snakes and other reptiles, many small mammals, birds, catfish and even groundnuts. They will also scavenge whenever possible.

  • Both lions and lionesses defend their territory through roaring, scent marking and patrolling. Male lions, however, invest more time in these protection activities.

  • Lionesses give birth away from the pride and keep the cubs concealed in a dry riverbed or rocky outcrop for a few weeks, a period when cubs are most at risk to predators.

  • Lions are unable to maintain a long chase after prey, as their bulky limbs are more adapted to attacking. While in pursuit speeds reached range between 30 to 37 miles per hour.

  • Cooperative hunts are likely to be more successful than solitary ones and often see the pride’s lionesses taking up identical spots in the hunting formation, no matter the prey, similar to players in a rugby team- with “wings” and “centers.”

  • Competitors, such as hyenas, jackals, vultures and storks, often attempt to steal a lion’s kill. Strategies of protection have sometimes seen lions storing their kill in trees or attempting to bury it.

  • Aside from lions, no other cats have a mane or a tuft of hair on the tip of their tail.

  • Patterned rosettes feature predominately on the coats of lion cubs and faded versions appear on some adults. This implies their ancestors may have inhabited more densely forested habitats.

  • After a lion defecates, its dung is often consumed by jackals, vultures and hyena or buried by dung beetles.

  • One way of identifying a lion’s age is by studying a lion’s teeth.

  • Interestingly, some pride activities are infectious. When a lion yawns, roars or grooms itself, other pride members will follow suit.

  • A lion’s eyesight is six times better than humans at night, as their iris muscles rapidly increase pupil size and adapt to the darkness.

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