Protecting what is theirs

Lionesses with cubs at kill watching for scavengers

Lion prides face many challenges beyond bringing down their prey. After a kill, they must remain vigilant to prevent other animals, such as hyenas, jackals, and vultures, from taking away the entire carcass or pieces of it.

The two experienced lionesses, who were the subjects of my earlier blogs, had a number of strategies to prevent these opportunists from pilfering their unfinished prey. While eating, the pride kept a watchful eye (first picture) for any “would be” scavengers who might make a move toward their prey (like the vultures who had arrived…the next picture). After more than an hour of eating, one lioness began scratching the soil around the kill (third picture), much like a domestic cat scratches in a litter box. Perhaps by covering up the signs of the kill, lions make it difficult for scavengers to locate an unfinished carcass’ or by masking their scents or the scents of their kill, other prey animals won’t detect their presence in the area.

When the lionesses and their cubs had full bellies, one lioness grabbed the carcass by the neck and began dragging it toward some nearby bushes. The photos show the effort it took for her to pull it to the thicket in the hot afternoon sun. Panting heavily, she finally hid the remains of the dead prey under this protective cover, reducing the likelihood that scavengers would try to feed on it or steal it. The lions then settled down to give their full bellies time to digest their meal.

In my next blog, I’ll talk about how the lionesses’ cubs learn valuable lessons.

Vultures patiently waiting near lion kill
Patiently waiting vultures
Lioness scratching the ground to cover up signs of the kill
Scratching the soil around the carcass
Lioness begins moving sable carcass to hiding place
Beginning to move the carcass to the thicket
Lioness dragging the carcass as cubs continue to try to feed
Lioness dragging the carcass as cubs continue to try to feed
Lioness pants from exertion on the way to hide the carcass
Panting from the effort of dragging the carcass
Lioness stands by the carcass hiding place with three cubs
Remains of their prey are safely hidden
Full bellies are very obvious in resting lioness and standing cub
Full bellies and time to digest!

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