Saturday, July 13, 2013

India will make Lions jump over trees

I am pretty sure, India want to see Lions chasing Langurs over trees. Well, before discussing anything further, I would like to place some facts about the prey list and hunting procedures of the majestic beast "Lions" which will in turn brief you some more facts about Lion and prey behavior. If you google about the prey list of Lions, hopefully you would find many listing them, but what's new here is we would discuss them in depth. Prey list of Lions totally depend as how they hunt, and hunting procedures are again related to the prey density where they survive.

Africa (Tanzania, Botswana, Mara etc.) offers too widely stretched land (rocky mountain, savannah, grassland, desert, dense forest). But Lions do live in some very specific places. To know where Lions live, click here. However Lions always choose to live where there is plenty of prey (which they prefer to have). 

 African & Asiatic Lions' hunt

Lions (males) do prefer to rest a lot and not to waste more energy on chasing preys, since they know that Lionesses of his/ their pride have to bring eatables for their cubs. Accordingly, Lionesses too know that Lions won't participate in hunting so they tend to bring a lot of food which can satisfy them, the cubs and more precisely, the pride owners (Lions) obviously in return of protection by them from other males. In order to bring back so much of food, Lionesses hunt in groups (group may vary from 2-10) to bring down big animals such as Zebra, Buffaloes, Wild beasts, Warthogs, Nilgai etc. However, they can also bring down huge animals such as Giraffes, Elephants, Rhinos, Hippos etc while in scarcity of prey, as there's a famous saying in Hindi "Marta kya naa karta" (When it's up to ones life, one may do anything to survive). This need turned them social, as hunting alone can only bring down small preys such as Antelopes, Wild boars, Rabbits, Sambhar, Chital etc. It's not that they don't hunt these small preys in groups, but the group size is directly proportional to the prey to bring down. Having said this, usually African Lion prides consists 5-20 members (including their cubs) while Asiatic prides usually holds 3-10 in a pride. This directly makes us understand their prey type. Now since we are known of the prey type of Lions in different regions, it's time to know which are the preys which Lions chase the most and why.

Asiatic Lions hence targets primarily on few animals such as Chitals, Sambhars, Wild pigs. However, they also don't hesitate in scavenging preys, brought down by other predators/ big cats, or naturally dead, which may include anything.

Asiatic Lions' choice

Asiatic Lions precisely chase Chitals and Sambhars. Reason behind this is, in India, Chitals (or spotted deers) and Sambhars are abundant so can be found easily. However, as per Chitals and Sambhars behavior, they do prefer to roam in and around big thick trees (which is often not a lovable place for Lions) for reasons. Reason being Monkeys and Langurs. Monleys and Langurs often drop leaves from trees which make easy food for the Cheetals (lazy lads), and also the Langurs make alarm calls as soon as they see any predator near to them. So catching Chitals and Sambhars has never been an eazy job for the Lions in such locations.

The only exception, when Lions can chase down Chitals is when they roam in open savannah or grassland (which happens very often), come in group for quenching their thirst (often at early morning, afternoon or early night), or while grazing at night (when they loose their areal eyes i.e. Langurs). Big cats do have a very good night vision as compared to Chitals/ Sambhars. Other reason for which Lions avoid hunting in dense forests is due to their bulky body, they can't chase zig zag too much (being trees the main hurdles) while Chitals/ Sambhars are pretty expert in that, hence, they prefer to get down the prey while chasing them in open (along with a strong group attack strategy/ planning). Despite of so much trouble Asiatic Lions prefer these both because once they get hold of them, just with a single hard bite of canine can damage their spine or choke their breath to bring them down, while they have to fight a lot for Wild boars, Neelgais etc.  Therefore, Asiatic Lions avoid chasing big bodies. It's found that 20% approx food for Asiatic Lions is contributed by cattle from the nearby/ adjacent villages of Gir forest, which is again an easy prey for the beasts which they can't miss. Given the chance, and if the Lion is injured/ old, they may also raise the percentage from 20% to 50% or even more, so we should always consider easy prey in the prey list of any big cat.  

Lion hunting Langurs?

When I came to know that Wildlife experts of Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary included "Langurs" while making a list of prime prey density for Lions, just in order to increase the figures to make their debate stronger. However, a biologist is expected to know all the above facts even more deeply than it's mentioned above. A Langur should always be considered as a spoil sport for any big cat. In fact Lanhurs can also force Lions to starve for days alarming the deers which Lions do chase for. There is no possibility for a Lion to chase a Langur (I mean come on.. this is just as driving my car from earth to moon..). Yes, you might have seen a Lion having feast on Langur, but that is only when they scavenge it from Leopards/ Hyenas (who may likely killed it) or may have hunted an injured Langur (over land, not on trees). There have been incidents, when Lions killed Langurs while they were quenching their thirst (that too if the Langur was not alert at all, which happens once in a blue moon, or couldn't run back that fast). Except mentioned I don't think there must be any possibility when a Lion can have feast on Langur, and that doesn't gives liberty to claim Langur as Lions prime prey. Below listed is the prey base chart which was provided.      

Species                Population Density/± Standard Error
Chital                                               51.59           ±         8.84
Sambhar                                        3.59              ±         1.01
Nilgai                                               2.32              ±         0.59
Wild Pig                                         4.68              ±         1.54
Chinkara                                        0.99              ±         0.35
Langur                                          17.2              ±         4.6
Peafowl                                          6.44              ±         2.34
Feral Cattle                                   1.83              ±         0.77

If Indian biologists are including Langurs as Lions "MAIN PREY LIST", hopefully we would be soon seeing Asiatic Lions jumping over the trees of Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary, again, which would be an unbelievable sighting which may fail all rules of Nature. So, be prepared to experience the thrill soon.


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