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James Tyrrell


James had hardly touched a camera when he came to Londolozi, but his writing skills that complemented his Honours degree in Zoology meant that he was quickly snapped up by the Londolozi blog team. An environment rich in photographers helped him develop the ...

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on Water vs Food: The Difference in Lion Behaviour at Each

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Interesting thoughts. Lions do seem to fight with each other when at a kill. Some pride members more agressive than others. Maybe it is the males that claim the kill, and the females can just wait their turn. We saw the Tsalalas catch a small nyala once. The cubs fought viciously over every scrap. It might be that they do not know where their next meal will be coming from where as at a water source they know it will be there the next day.

Master Tracker

Don’t believe everything you read on the internet, very sage advice.

James, Interesting the way this all happens Great group photos at waters edge. Thank you

Interesting, I never wondered why lions are so calm when drinking water in contrast to eating food.

And yet they rely on water much less than most herbivores do.

Really fun blog … both in subject and in content! Another treatment of something we all notice but never give it the thoughtful analysis that you have!

James, again great story telling.
I saw a leopard drinking when we there in 2018 – the cats are amazing creatures.

Let us all know, James, what the answer is when you rangers / trackers have discussed it! Think there is more free water around than food. It is easier to access and big cats don’t have to work so hard to obtain it because it doesn’t “fight back”! Wendy M

We have several wonderful images of lion prides peacefully drinking. Never really thought it through. Thanks for the insight!

Senior Digital Ranger

Interesting observation. Of course water at a fairly large sized water hole is abundant. Wondering during drought a few years back if you guys had the chance to observe lion prides drinking at what I would assume were more scarce water resources displaying the same cooperative civility?

One more reason could be that water won’t disappear as fast as their killed prey..in other words, the water pots, rivers will be there to satisfy the lions’ thirst the next day as well as the next days (and/or months)..consequently they don’t have to fight with each other because the water resource is just in front of them in a considerable amount and they can drink from it as much and as long they like. The prey on the other hand, will be available for a very short period of time…additionally, if the lions haven’t eaten for days they r super hungry and on a hurry of eating as much and as fast they can. The reason for the latter could be that their peers could eat up their share…not to mention that the next meal could in several days later

Hi Maria,
Very good observations, and I’m sure they play their part. I think you may well be onto something there with the rate at which the food disappears…

Great blog and lots of food for thought. As you point out, none of us including lions, can survive without water for days at a time, whilst we can live without food. I’m guessing when lions are pushed to their hunger boundaries, sharing is not an option- first in feasts while others fight for scraps. A water source doesn’t provide that threat of fighting to eat.

It seems other animals react the same when faced with food deprivation. Will watch this spot to learn what your team thinks.

Great post, James with a very interesting question. I agree with other comments here, but also want to highlight what was alluded to above, and that is the effect on lions of having their adrenaline amped up during the hunt and the kill. Once that’s amped up, it can be hard to dissipate, fueling further aggression. One classic movie that shows this behavior so well among men is “Moby Dick,” when Ahab has been drowned and the hunt is clearly futile, the other whaler’s are so amped up, they disregard reason, and pursue the chase to their doom.

Great point Michael, I agree 100%!

James, it seems to us that there is a big difference between feeding on a kill and feeding on water. The water also seems like a safe place for them too and if the watering hole is big enough for everyone, why fight over it!

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