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Anim Behav. 1998 Dec;56(6):1333-1345.

Hunting by male lions: ecological influences and socioecological implications.

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Department of Zoology & Entomology, University of Pretoria


In the Kruger National Park, male lions, Panthera leo, acquire most of their food by hunting rather than scavenging. This study, the most intensive to date of male lion ecology, showed that in savanna woodlands, with high buffalo, Syncerus caffer, densities, male lions were frequent and successful hunters. The main prey species of all male group types, but particularly nonterritorial males, was buffalo. By contrast, females preyed more frequently on the most abundant medium-sized ungulates, such as wildebeest, Connochaetes taurinus, and zebra, Equus burchelli. Thus intraspecific prey selection separation was based primarily on intersexual and, to a lesser extent, social differences. Furthermore, both nonterritorial males and pride females located their favoured prey, buffalo and medium-sized ungulates, respectively, more often than other prey. We investigated the influence of several ecological variables on the socioecology of male lions, particularly as we had determined that territorial males spent little time with their pride females and tended to hunt by themselves in their respective male coalitions. Further analysis showed that in a range of ecosystems in southern and eastern Africa the proportion of time territorial males spent with, and thus scavenged from, their pride females was strongly influenced by vegetation structure, and therefore probably by the assemblage of available ungulates. In open systems, territorial males were, therefore, likely to be encountered with pride females, whereas in more wooded areas they were likely to be encountered away from their pride females. We suggest that this is because vegetation structure influences food/prey availability and hunting success and influences territory maintenance and/or cub defence. (c) 1998 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour.

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