No, they’re not.
I should really leave it there, but there’s a lot more to it of course.
One of the best lines I’ve read in a nature book came from Creatures of Habit, by Peter Apps and Richard du Toit – at least I think it did – and it simply stated that:
Animals never do nothing.
This doesn’t sound particularly profound, yet it sums up nature pretty well. Our idea of doing nothing involves lying on a couch, inactive, being lazy basically, but laziness is a privilege reserved almost exclusively for humans. A lazy animal wouldn’t make an effort when it should, but ultimately this would be detrimental to its well-being, and that’s counter-intuitive in terms of the genetic drive to reproduce (the chances of which are effectively cancelled if you don’t survive).
I mention laziness as a purely human trait since we are generally not at the mercy of our environment; we have changed our environment to suit us, and the advancement of human civilisation has got our species to the point where we can lie around all day doing nothing, and then go to the supermarket and buy food. Obviously we need a bit of money to do that, so some work at some point would have been necessary, but there isn’t a lot of consequence in terms of low productivity levels when it comes to survival. At least not in the short term.
Lions, however, can’t rely on their local grocer or anything of the sort. Granted they may steal a kill from time to time, but this also comes with its inherent risks.
Lions have to eat or they will die. Yes the same can be said for us as animals, but the actual obtaining of food doesn’t require much effort on our part, in particular we don’t have to time our efforts to ensure the maximum reward possible (unless attending a sale or trying to avoid the queues). The same can’t be said for the big felines however, and herein lies the rub.
Nature is about energy conservation. Risk vs. reward. Output vs. input. Wild animals in nature need some benefit in order to be motivated to perform an activity, even if that benefit may not be immediately obvious to our human eyes. Lions lying sleeping in the shade on a hot day are not being lazy. That is a human trait. They are conserving energy during the least energetically efficient time of the day. The chances of them successfully hunting when it is hot and when it is light enough for most prey species to see them coming are significantly lower than during the cool of the evenings, when the darkness is advantageous to their superior eyesight and they won’t lose as much energy while their bodies attempt to regulate their temperatures.
If the energy costs involved in an activity aren’t outweighed by its potential benefits, they simply won’t do it.
Lions therefore aren’t being lazy when they’re lying around. Their apparent laziness is simply them opting to wait for the opportune time to get active.
The whole males-are-lazier-than-females debate is fallacy as well, but we’ll go into that next week.