Why do lions live in groups whereas other cats don’t?

Unlike most other big cats in the wild, lions are more likely to stick together and share their living space, in what are known as prides. Lions inhabit an expansive environment, and their prey travel in large groups, so in order to survive they have evolved a co-operative social system.

The prides consist of several lionesses, usually sisters, and one or more outsider males. The males defend the territory, while the females work together to hunt and raise the cubs. Some of the main factors for their social behaviour include the increased chance of making a kill. Hunting is usually carried out by the lionesses working together as a group, they are more agile compared to the stockier male lions, which are also hindered by their large manes. The smaller females are able to move silently as they stalk their prey.

 

How the lioness hunts:

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1. Stalking the prey

Lionesses hunt in teams. They have limited stamina, so they flank their target, remaining hidden while inching closer

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2.The attack begins

When close enough, they will pounce, joining together to take down an unsuspecting member of the herd

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3. Locked in

They grab the prey around the neck with their immensely strong jaws, preventing it from biting or kicking back

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4. Takedown complete

Their jaw strength will break the prey’s spine or crush the trachea in a vice-like grip that can be held for up to ten minutes.

 

Additional reasons for their social nature include a better protection for their offspring. A female lion can remain in a pride for her lifetime, whereas a male lion may only last a few years depending on the competition he faces.

Because lions have relatively small hearts for their body size, and cannot run for long distances, the combination of stealth and teamwork ensures every member of the pride gets a meal.

The social interaction between members of a lion pride helps to ensure that the individuals function as a team. Lions use peaceful and affectionate rubbing and licking to bond with one another and will call for lost members of the group, ensuring the pride remains together.

 

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Photograph: Make it Kenya