Lions are the only truly sociable big cats in the world. This allows them to take on some of Africa’s mega herbivores such as giraffe and buffalo, which are generally not targeted by any other predators.
Lions kill everything that they can. Although animals like elephant, hippo and rhino are the exception due to the high risk involved for the lions, it has been known to happen. Lions are at the top of the large predator hierarchy and eliminate all other competition that they can by killing, not eating; just killing any other carnivore they can catch from jackals to leopards.
Lions mate roughly every thirty minutes for three days nonstop, this is to ensure fertilisation during the females window period so that the cubs will be born as soon as possible allowing for longer protection under the pride male. Roughly only 1 in 3000 copulations will result in a lion cub that lives to over a year.
Male lions do kill cubs, but very seldom their own. Lions usually kill young cubs that are still suckling as they take over a new pride. Most lions are in their prime from five to eight years old. This is a three year period in which to mate and protect their cubs to a point where they can fend for themselves and thus have successfully passed on their genes. If a female is still suckling cubs she won’t come into oestrus and therefore the new male cannot start his own family. If he waits there’s a good chance the next male will oust him before his offspring mature. It is therefore imperative for him to start his family as soon as possible, whatever it takes.
Once a new male has killed the old male’s young cubs, the females of the pride often come into a “fake” oestrus and mate with the new male. This is to ensure that the females don’t waist the energy of starting a family with a male who will not be around for long. If the male is still there a month or so later they will come into “true” oestrus and have cubs with the new pride male.
Lions rest for roughly twenty hours of every day. Getting food is a dangerous and energy sapping activity and once it is acquired it is not wasted. It may seem like they are sleeping but most of the time their ears and noses will be wide open even if their eyes are closed.
Words and Images by Jamie Keenan.