Lions Defend Prey From Crocodile

Mar 12 2016
James du Toit a Latest Sightings (a real-time game viewing app which has revolutionised game viewing and can be downloaded at iPhone/iPad & Android) community member was travelling on the S100, approximately 5 kilomentres from the west entrance in the Kruger National Park. It was about 12h15 when a lady in the opposite direction stopped him. She mentioned she had just seen 3 lionesses take down a waterbuck.
Immediately, James headed over in that direction to the Nwanetsi River on the S100 about 5kms from H1-3, and watched 3 adult lionesses eat. James grabbed his Canon 1000D with a basic 70mm to 300mm Sigma lens, without stabiliser, and began shooting. James says, “Not long after, a large male crocodile (4-5m in length) walked up the side of the bank, and looked as though he wanted to scavange the kill.” 
It is pretty common for crocodiles to scavenge, as James explains, “They are naturally the cleaners of rivers preventing the spread of viruses and diseases. Crocodiles are opportunistic by nature and eat whenever the opportunity arrises. Although they can survive a long period without food, even several months. Their primary diet is fish, and other water species, and depending on the size of the prey, crocs consume their prey fairly quickly. They do not chew their food, but rather tear off chunks of meat and swallow it whole. It is digested within a few days, after which they store the energy as fat within the tail. This fuels them with the energy they need during times of drought and famine.” Being reptiles they also have the ability to slow down their metabolism enough that they can survive long periods without food, sometimes only eating once a year. 
The scene got interesting with one of the lionesses defending herself and attacking the crocodile. This while the other tried to drag the kill off deeper into the bush. This scene continued for a while!
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James says, “Lions initially kill their prey via suffocation! Either covering the mouth and nostrils with their mouth, or by biting the throat. They initiate a hunt with stealth and teamwork by specific strategic placements of each animal herding the prey into a trap. Although their hunting methods are so strict and strategic, they only have a 20 to 40% success rate at kills, as they require a lot of learning and practice.”
The feeding hierarchy is quite simple as is with many similar species. James says, “The male being the strength and protection of the pride always eats first. They feed mostly on the inners and most nutritious parts of the kill, giving them a large advantage. However this is only if he is at the scene, irrespective of whether he participates in the hunting or not. He will only participate in the hunt if he is needed, for instance in cases where the prey is too large and his brute strength is needed. Because of his mane and generally being large in size, they are often spotted easily during a hunt. Next in line is the females that eat as they need the strength to keep the pride going. They provide the basic bread and butter for the pride! The cubs are the last to eat. All this being said, I by my own experience have discovered that the strict hierarchy system is only implemented when there are multiple males within the pride and if the kill is too small to feed all the pride. I myself have seen on most kills that all the individual lions will often feed together irrespective of whether the male/s are there or not.”
We can clearly see even within domestic cat behaviour, cats of all species have very aggressive feeding habits when it comes to sex and ages.  The strongest is always the one that eats first, and the consumes the most. James continues, “So there is no doubt that when lions feed off of a fresh kill, there will be a lot of aggressive behaviour over who eats first, and the best parts. Lions are also defensive and aggressive towards other species that try to steel their prey, and thus fights are typical.” 
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The crocodile realising he was fighting a losing battle, eventually gave up on his quest. James concludes, “ I think why this scene unfolded, is because the kill was literally a couple of meters from the bank, and the crocodile laying in the water had probably watched the whole scene take place. Being hungry he decided to try his luck with the cats, but to no avail.
 Commentary & photography by James du Toit, Tydon Safaris


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