The Life of Lions in the wild
King of the beast – African Male Lion terribly stressed
Let’s first learn a few things about the king of the plains and how terribly stressed and downright cruel the life of a male lion is
There is a popular saying ”Lions are King of the Jungle”…This is wrong as lions don’t live in Jungles, they live in plains and grasslands.
The best thing to say is ”Lions are the king of the Plains” while ”Tigers are King of the Jungle” Tigers are the ones who live in the jungle. They dominate the Indian Jungle
I’ll tell you just one that completely took me by surprise because practically nobody thinks of it.
- It’s about how terribly stressed and downright cruel the life of a male lion is.
what is the life of a male lion?
The male lion is easily the second-largest and strongest of the big cats. And often portrayed as having a regal and very comfortable lifestyle with lionesses doing most of the hunting, while the males of the pride get to then eat first! Amazing, isn’t it?
All of that is true – so long as the lion has his own pride, but most of them don’t. It’s simply a matter of numbers If every male lion with pride has five lionesses.
Naturally, there are a whole lot of males who have none and are on their own to hunt and try and dislodge other males from their pride.
Just one in eight male lions will even survive to adulthood.
Consider also the fact that lions (i.e. lionesses) hunt by a combination of two methods –
- Coordinated attacks – like a couple of lionesses driving a herd of wildebeests into a narrow pass and then another sex first picking off and then finishing one of the prey.
- Ambush – this is much harder to do on the plains because there is little cover unlike say for a tiger in a thick forest.
Now given its sheer bulk and thick mane, it is hard for a male lion to hide. It can run faster than say a tiger.
But doesn’t have anything close to the sheer speed of cheetahs in terms of all-out chase or the incredible stamina of an African wild dog or hyena to pursue its prey endlessly until the latter collapses from exhaustion.
“Lion vs cheetah kill ratio”
As a side note in terms of contrast, cheetahs have a stunning ‘hunt: kill’ ratio – almost one in two hunts end in success, but the challenge then for them is to hold on to what they’ve killed.
And unlike a lion, given their blinding speed, they simply pick a target that’s within a few dozen meters and go flat out incomplete view.
Back to the topic, there is a solid reason why the primary role of a male lion in pride is to protect the females and the cubs that he has sired, both from other rival competitive predators (most notably hyenas that are a primordial and chief enemy) and other male lions (who will instantly kill all the cubs if they take over).
On rare occasions, a male lion will be decisive in bringing down massive prey like an old Cape buffalo but that’s quite uncommon.
But male lions are so stressed out that the lifespan of lionesses is some four years more than theirs.
When you’re talking about a species that only lives as long as a dog for 12–15 years, is a big deal.
Compare this now to the average lifespan of the two most common and favorite prey of lions –
- Wildebeests at 20 years.
- Zebras at 20–30 years.
Yes, multiple years longer than their predators.
What’s the life cycle of lion?
(1) Lion Conservation Status
Worse still unlike prey, predators like lions cannot simply get up and leave if there’s a drought. Because other grounds already belong to other male lions and as a species, they are incredibly territorial.
So yeah, in an especially bad dry season, if the prey leaves in search of better pastures, the lion simply does not have that option.
This is something very important that most people fail to realize when looking at predator vs. prey.
It is not a stretch to say that on balance, the male lion has the most stressed-out lifestyle of all large animals on the plains (with the possible exception of cheetahs).
A king who lives for significantly shorter than the females of his species and way shorter than even his prey.
And so crazy stressed out even in the best phase that male lions often won’t even eat or sleep at ease or comfortably.
Oh but it gets even worse. How do they meet their end?
- Starvation after being dislodged from their pride (if they even have one to begin with). An old lion who has been dethroned has little capacity to hunt for himself.
- Being mauled to death by a younger and healthier male competitor who challenges them and takes over the pride.
Male lions on average control a pride for no more than four to five years during their life. Once again, that’s the successful ones.
As cubs after they’ve grown, are driven out of the pride they were born into after two to three years (unlike lionesses, because young males could be a threat to their own father).
Then if they’re lucky they’ll have a pride of their own for four to five years on average. King of the beast – Male Lion terribly stressed and downright cruel
And then driven into the wilderness to meet a comparatively slow and miserable end.
You know the irony of it all?
Ultimately, the distinguishing characteristic of lions as the only big cat that is social now proves to be a death knell – when isolated from its pride. Because, unlike a tiger or leopard, a lion struggles to bring down prey on its own.
Once an old lion is driven from the pride into a solitary existence, that advantage of being a social hunter now becomes a mortal curse.
(2). Lion numbers have dropped from 200,000 to just 23,000.
What a shocking statistic! And this near 90% drop in the lion population has occurred in a little over 100 years. This is really one of the saddest facts about lions.
Yet in some places, these majestic predators are still hunted legally in some places like the Maasai tribe.
In Africa, however, there’s a great decline in lions’ population and this is very alarming.
(3). Lions are vulnerable on the IUCN red list.
It wasn’t that long ago that lions were classified as an animal of least concern. The king of the savannah didn’t have any predators.
Then cowards and colonialists turned up with guns. At this rate, our next generation won’t even have the opportunity to see these animals in the wild.
(4). Lions are extinct from 26 countries they previously roamed.
This list includes Congo, Egypt, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Gabon, Gambia, and Iraq.
Lions are also believed to be extinct in a further seven African countries, including, Nigeria, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, and Togo.
These magnificent cats once roamed through all of Africa, along with parts of Asia and Europe.
They are now restricted to East and Southern Africa, with a handful of individuals in West Africa and India’s Sasan-Gir National Park. Facts about African Lion Conservation – Status particularly in Nigeria
(5). A lion’s roar can be heard from over 8 km away
A roar is a sign of dominance, so the louder the better as far as lions are concerned. Lions use these impressive roars to warn rivals and show off how big and bad they are.
This is one of the great sounds you can hear on a safari and it really echoes through the night.
Males have a deeper roar than lionesses. King of the beast – Male Lion terribly stressed and downright cruel
The incredible roar is caused by a ligament in their voice box. This ligament is stretched to enable more air to pass across the vocal cords, making an incredibly deep and loud sound.
Note that this ligament is only found in the biggest cats – lions, tigers. So it is only these animals that can roar.
(6). Purrs, grunts, snarls, moans, and hums.
Lions make an incredible variety of sounds. Low-pitched grunts are commonly heard on a safari while individuals communicate through moaning, huffing, and humming.
They also purr, although some say this isn’t a true purr as it is only produced on the exhale; domestic cats purr continuously, on the inhale and exhale of breath.
Baby lions make a sound that is just like a meow but is really a feeble first attempt at roaring.
(7). Lion cubs weigh just 1.5 kg when they are born
How cute is this fact about lions? A tiny lion cub is so small and light you could tuck it into a pet carrier bag and show it off in a shopping mall (or wherever people show off their puppies and kittens).
Even cuter is this fact: lion cubs are born with blue eyes! How adorable, until the cub turns two years old and mauls you to death.
These animals are definitely not pets. The blue eyes change to brown or amber when the cubs are two to three months old, 1.5 kg is less than 1% of a lion’s adult weight.
So while lions are born tiny and cute they quickly develop into 150-250 kg carnivores.
(8). Lions don’t hunt or eat every day
Hunting requires a lot of energy and it is not always necessary. Instead, these predators literally stuff themselves to bursting point at a single sitting.
On average an African lion needs to consume 5-7 kg of meat for each day they are alive and healthy.
But if the pride takes down a buffalo then a single lion may eat 35 kg of meat in one sitting! If there is enough food available these cats can eat an incredible 15% of their body weight in one meal!
How often a pride hunt is dictated by the prey. Hunting Cape buffaloes is hard but rewarding work, so pride that does this in the Okavango Delta will only need to eat every five to six days. Those living predominantly off zebra will need to hunt more often.
Still, these cats will always be looking for opportunities. If an easy meal crosses their path they will eat it, even if they are not hunting. Just like we will consume a cupboard full of snacks, even when we are not hungry!
(9). Lions can snooze for 20 hours a day
The king of the savannah is often the easiest of all the big cats to spot on safari. They don’t hide away and spend most of the day in the same place.
Lions love to sleep, especially after they have just finished a large meal. Note that they don’t actually sleep for 20 hours a day. Often they are snoozing with one eye open.
On a game drive, it’s relatively common for a pride of lions to fall asleep in the shade created by your vehicle. You will drive close to the big cats and they suddenly see some shade – such encounters are an incredible connection with your wild side.
(10). Lions are visibly different all around Africa
What’s most incredible about these carnivores is how adaptable they are. They have evolved to survive in a remarkably varied range of habitats. In fact, the only place they don’t live in is the jungle!
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