Is sneaking up on lions a sensible thing to do? As the video at the bottom of this page shows, it can be done safely by humans who know what they are doing and with lions that are familiar with that human. Everyone else should probably give it a miss!
How Do Lions Live in the Wild?
Lions (Panthera leo) are formidable predators in their habitats. They are the largest cats on the African continent and are probably the most social of all the cat family. Typically, they form matriarchal groups called prides. These are usually made up of between three and 10 adult females and their offspring. The females are genetically related and use a ‘creche’ system to help each other to raise the cubs. Membership of a pride is usually stable but individuals also forage on their own or in smaller groups. Two or three resident males will be associated with the pride – they may form ‘coalitions’ who hold the mating rights in a particular territory.
Is This Normal Behavior for Lions?
This fairly complex social arrangement requires interactions between the individual lions to maintain relationships and bonds. Play behavior is a big part of this. What you are seeing here is play behavior that the lions have allowed a human to be a part of and that is an immense privilege.
Whilst play is most common in cubs, research has shown that females never lose their playfulness. Male lions up to the age of about three years also join in with play but older males are more reluctant. Females are often seen playing with cubs.
What Does Lion Play Look Like?
This video provides a perfect illustration of what lion play looks like. It only takes place if the lions are not too hungry and not too hot and when they feel secure. It consists of chasing, rushing, stalking, pawing and wresting.
In addition to consolidating social bonds, play behavior helps the younger lions to practice their hunting skills. They will stalk, pounce and grapple.
It is common to see younger cubs chasing adult’s tails and grappling with their legs. However, they risk getting a sharp growl as a reprimand when the adult has had enough!
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