Female Lion Hunting at Sunrise in the Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

Female Lion Hunting at Sunrise in the Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

February 25, 2005 By Joe Morahan

Female Lioness At Sunrise Hunting in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania, Africa

Female Lioness At Sunrise Hunting in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania, Africa

The female lioness pictured here was hunting at the crack of dawn near a place known as Simba’s rock in the Serengeti plains of Tanzania. 

Lions learned ages ago that, while solo performances may be dramatic ego boosting exercises, real success comes more from symphonic performances, where each player does his part.Using this strategy, lions are capable of taking prey as large as wildebeests, zebras, buffaloes, elephants, rhinos, hippos, and even giraffes. It’s all about teamwork in the bush.

Females perform 85 to 90 percent of the Pride’s hunting.They have mastered the art of hunting in groups, surreptitiously stalking their prey in silence and practicing a strategy that involves ‘triangulating their targets’, surrounding it without the target’s knowledge. Taking advantage of reduced visibility in the tall grasses, they especially favor the advantages of hunting in the dead of night.

Lions will usually work in tandem until their prey is inside 100 feet before making the final attack.One of the Lionesses will confront the startled prey by charging it head on.The terrified animal instinctually turns and bolts away from the charging lion only to find itself confronting the other lionesses waiting in cover who, during the hunt, at full speed, can reach speeds of up to 50 miles an hour for short distances.They strike the target in a deadly pincer move, racing in from both left and right. They pounce upon the confused, horrified animal.This hunting methodology produces a 50% success rate, far in excess of the success rate of solo hunters. 

Meanwhile, the males are back at ‘home’ protecting the pride and its precious territory.They participate in only 10% to 15% of the kills, and display bad manners, demanding to be the first to savor the fruits of the kill. 

Being King brings other privileges, as well.Lions often supplement their diets in a big way by driving off hyenas, cheetahs, and even leopards from their kills.At times, this bullying may produce half the pride’s diet, achieved with very little effort.

Camera Details: Canon EOS-1D Mark II(click image to enlarge)
Shot details: f/3.5; 1/640 sec; ISO 100; 3744×5616 Pixels 
Focal Length 73mm; EF 70-200mm f/2.8 IS USM
Camera Details: Canon EOS-1D Mark II

Joe Morahan