To survive to adulthood in the often perilous world that growing lions must navigate, it takes tenacity and toughness, as well as a dash of luck. Threats can appear at any time to a young cub. There is hunger, injury, and the threat of rival carnivores such as leopards and hyenas. However, there are dangers much closer to home, woven into the complex social dynamics of pride, where violent skirmishes for control can quickly turn fatal. When humans are added to the mix, the threats quickly multiply, as poaching, hunting, and habitat loss further disrupt pride structures.
The demands of motherhood are immense and unyielding. Food, safety, comfort, tender care… so much needs to be provided for a young cub to develop into a self-sufficient predator, ready to face the rough and tumble of the great wild world. Mothering can be especially difficult for solitary animals.
Leopards, unlike lions or wild dogs, have no social safety net and no support in the form of a pack or pride. A leopard mother is the sole bearer of her cub’s fate.
A male lion watches the plains from a rocky outcrop in Tanzania’s Serengeti. Male lions have a reputation for being lazy because they frequently rely on females to hunt; however, it is less well known that they scavenge a large portion of their food from hyenas, which are very efficient hunters. Male lions rarely hold pride alone; they usually form bonds with related males to work together to protect the groups of females and their cubs within their territory.
Despite their reputation for laziness and lounging, male lions can undoubtedly contribute to the complex anatomy of a hunt, especially when the quarry is as formidable as the buffalo. However, the lionesses come into their own in almost every way during the hunting battle. The females of the pride are the real stars here, being stealthier, faster, and lighter on their feet… and success is frequently dependent on their abilities, experience, and well-coordinated maneuverings.