Male Lions Use Dense Vegetation For Ambush-Style Hunting

By Staff Reporter on March 19, 2013 8:00 AM EDT

Lion
Male lions use dense vegetation for ambush-style hunting. (Photo: Reuters)

Male lions, that have long been believed to be dependent on females when it comes to hunting, are successful hunters in their own right, finds a new study.

It is known that female lions use cooperative strategies to hunt their prey. While some studies have shown that male lions are equally capable at hunting like females, it was not clear as to how they manage to hunt successfully as male lions are less likely to cooperate.

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Now, a team of researchers from Carnegie Institution for Science have found that male lions use dense savanna vegetation for ambush-style hunting in Africa.

For their study, the research team created 3-D maps of the savanna vegetation using a Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) scanner that was mounted on the fixed-wing Carnegie Airborne Observatory (CAO) aircraft. They combined 3-D habitat maps with GPS data from predator-prey interactions from a pride of seven lions in South Africa's Kruger National Park. Based on these data, they determined the viewsheds (visible from a specific location) where the lions killed their prey in comparison to where they rested.

Researchers found that the male as well as the female lions preferred to rest in dense vegetation and short viewsheds during the day in order to get shade. At night, the female lions hunted under the cover of darkness in areas with open vegetation.

But the male lions preferred to ambush their prey in dense vegetation, areas where prey is highly vulnerable. "By strongly linking male lion hunting behavior to dense vegetation, this study suggests that changes to vegetation structure, such as through fire management, could greatly alter the balance of predators and prey," Scott Loarie, from Carnegie Institution For Science, said in a statement.

The study results could help park management in taking better conservation efforts to maintain lions' habitat, said the researchers.

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