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Keywords:

  • female;
  • hunting;
  • lions;
  • male;
  • success

Abstract

Long-term continuous observations of hunting lions Panthera leo in the Kruger National Park were used to assess the variables affecting hunting success of male and female lions. Generalized linear models revealed that seven variables had significant independent influences on hunting success, with the most important being the prey species hunted. Three types of variables were recognized: (1) lion related, where type of hunt, wind orientation, and the number of adults hunting; (2) prey related, where prey species and herd size; (3) environment related, where moon brightness, and grass height were significant. The sex of the lions had no effect on the overall probability of hunting success. Five second-order interactions significantly influenced the probability of hunting success, with the most important being the interaction between sex and the type of prey. The only significant third-order interaction containing the variable sex, was the inter-relationship with prey species and shrub cover. After removing the over-riding bias of the prey species, greater resolution of the factors affecting success was revealed. The major difference was that group size influences hunting success and concomitantly prey selection, promoting selection for medium-sized ungulates like zebra Equus burchelli and wildebeest Connochaetes taurinus by females, and males mainly capturing buffalo Syncerus caffer. We conclude that in African ecosystems, the hunting success of male and female lions varies with a range of combinations of lion-, prey- and environment-related variables. We demonstrate the hunting ability of male lions, which has perhaps been understated in other studies.