“I’m gonna be the main event, Like no king was before, I’m brushing up on looking down, I’m working on my roar…”
These lyrics are of course, part of the wonderful soundtrack from the iconic Lion King movie, sung by Simba as he looks to his future as the King of the Jungle! Panthera leo, the lion, is of course the biggest cat found in Africa and it is always the highlight of a safari trip is to see these magnificent beasts in the wild. Hwange National Park has a thriving population of lions, and sightings are common. Hwange has open savannah plains and an abundance of prey which is ideal for lions. As these wonderful photographs show you can look forward to seeing lions daily at The Hide on a game drive, a game walk, from our underground hide…or just simply outside your tent!
Lions are very sociable, and live in groups together called prides. The size of the pride is dependent on a number of factors including prey availability, how much space is available, lion concentrations and competition from other predators. Lions probably become social in order to hunt larger prey species effectively. Lions are very territorial. In Hwange there are around 500 lions, and near the Hide there are three resident lion prides – the Mopane’s pride, Humba and Netsai pride and one between the camp and Mbiza.
Although lionesses do the majority of hunting in a pride, lion males are by no means lacking in hunting skills. Cubs of both sexes learn to hunt in the same way – through play, observation and practice over a long period of time. Young males have to leave their family pride once they are about 2.5 years old, and have to survive before they form a new pride, and so, must hunt for themselves. However, lions can often be seen “stealing” the prey from cheetah, hyena and leopards instead of doing the work for themselves.
When the pride goes out hunting, the males usually bring the extra weight needed to bring down large prey such as elephant or buffalo, but the females do the hard work of chasing it down. Males lions are useful for driving off opportunistic scavengers off a kill – spotted hyenas will not dare to get too close to a kill if there is a male lion there, but will take their chances with lionesses if they outnumber then. Lions generally hunt at nightfall, and their kill rate is about 30% – not very good when you compare it to the wild dog who a kill rate of 70%! There is a pecking order at a kill – mature males feed first, then everyone else.