|[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note|
|Lions spend much of their time resting. They are inactive for about 20 hours per day. Although lions can be active at any time of day, their activity generally peaks after dusk with a period of socializing, grooming and defecating, followed by intermittent bursts through the night hours to dawn. Hunting takes place more often during the night hours. They spend an average 2 hours a day walking and 50 minutes eating.|
Hunting and diet
Lion and cub eating a Cape Buffalo
Lions usually hunt in groups. Their prey consists mainly of larger mammals, with a preference for wildebeest, impalas, zebras, buffalo, giraffes and warthogs in Africa and nilgais, wild boars and several deer species in India. Many other species are hunted based on availability, maily ungulates of a weight between 50 and 300 kg, like kudu, hartebeest, gemsbok and eland. Ocassionaly they take relatively small species like thomson's gazelle or springbok. Lions often prey on healthy, adult animals, but dare to attack buffalo bulls in their prime and fully grown male giraffes. Very large species such as hippopotamuses, rhinoceroses and elephants are generally avoided due to the danger of injury and the effort required to capture them. In some areas, lions specialise in hunting atypical prey-species; this is the case at the Savuti river, where they prey on young elephants. It is reported that the lions, driven by extreme hunger, started taking down baby elephants, and then moved on to adolescents and, occasionally, fully grown adults. Lions also attack domestic livestock, especially in the Indian range cattle contribute significantly to its diet. They are capable of killing other predators such as leopards, cheetahs, hyenas and wild dogs, as well as scavenging animals either dead from natural causes or killed by other predators. A lion may gourge itself and eat up to 30 kg (66 lb) in one sitting; if unable to consume all the kill will rest for a few hours before consuming more. On a hot day, the pride may retreat to shade leaving a male or two to stand guard. An adult female lion requires about 5 kg (11 lb) of meat per day, a male about 7 kg (15.4 lb).
While a lion's teeth are sharp, prey is usually killed by strangulation.
During a mating bout, a couple may copulate twenty to forty times a day for several days.
Young lions first display stalking behaviour around attempt three months of age, though do not participate in actual hunting until almost a year old. They begin to hunt effectively when they are almost two years old. Lions can reach speeds of 50 mph, though only for short bursts, so they have to be quite nearby their prey before starting the attack. Lions take advantage of factors which reduce visibility; many kills take place near some form of cover or at night. They sneak up to the victim until they reach a distance of about 30 m (98 feet) or less. Usually several lions work together and encircle the herd from different points. The attack is short and powerful, the lion attempting to catch the victim with a fast rush and final leap. The prey is usually killed by strangulation.
Because lions hunt in open spaces where they are easily seen by their prey, cooperative hunting increases the likelihood of a successful hunt; this is especially true with larger species. Teamwork also enables them to defend their prey more easily against other large predators like hyenas, which can be attracted by vultures over kilometers in open savannas. Lionesses do most of the hunting; males attached to prides do not usually participate, except in the case of large animals such as buffalo and giraffe. In group hunts, each lioness has a favored position in the group, either stalking prey on the "wing" then attacking, or moving a smaller distance in the centre of the group and capturing prey in flight from other lionesses.
Lions do not mate at any specific time of year, and the females are polyestrous. Like other cats, the male lion's penis has spines which point backwards. Upon withdrawal of the penis, the spines rake the walls of the female's vagina, which may cause ovulation. A female may mate with more than one male when she is in heat; during a mating bout, which could last several days, the couple frequently copulate twenty to forty times a day and are likely to forgo hunting. In captivity, lions reproduce very well.
The average gestation period is around 110 days, the female giving birth to a litter of one to four cubs. Lionesses in a pride will synchronize their reproductive cycles so that they cooperate in the raising and suckling of the young, who suckle indiscriminately from any or all of the nursing females in the pride. Cubs are usually born and initially kept hidden from view in thickets or sheltered areas. They weigh 1.2-21 kg at birth and are almost helpless, beginning to crawl a day or two after birth and walking around three weeks of age. Weaning occurs after six to seven months. In the wild, competition for food is fierce, and as many as 80% of the cubs will die before the age of two.
When one or more new males take over a pride and oust the previous master(s), the conquerors often kill any remaining cubs. This is explained by the fact that the females would not become fertile and receptive until the cubs grow up or die. The male lions reach maturity at about 3 years of age and are capable of taking over another pride at 4–5 years old. They begin to age and weaken between 10 and 15 years of age at the latest. This leaves a short window for their own offspring to be born and mature—the fathers have to procreate as soon as they take over the pride. The lioness will often attempt to defend her cubs fiercely from a usurping male, but such actions are rarely successful, as he usually kills all the previous top male's cubs that are less than two years old and the female is much lighter and has less strength than the male. However, success is more likely when a group of 3 or 4 mothers within the pride join forces against one male.
One scientific study reports that both males and females may interact homosexually. Male lions pair-bond for a number of days and initiate homosexual activity with affectionate nuzzling and caressing, leading to mounting and thrusting. A study found that about 8% of mountings have been observed to occur with other males, while female pairings are held to be fairly common in captivity but have not been observed in the wild.
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