Although known as “king of the jungle,” lions are most commonly found in savannas where they have a wide choice of prey. However, lions have been observed to be quite picky about the prey they hunt as they focus on prey that poses the lowest risk of injury.
Despite being smaller and less powerful than buffalo, lions use their stamina and intelligence to hunt these huge herbivores. By chasing the herd for hours at a time, lions wear the buffalo down and may eventually manage to separate one of the weaker herd members from the protection of his group. Once isolated from the others, the prey target is extremely vulnerable. The lions, who always hunt in groups, get to work bringing the buffalo to ground before killing him.
The giraffe falls into the lion’s preferred body mass parameters, but this creature is uniquely formed and has one advantage over other prey animals, its height enables it to see long distances and a vigilant giraffe can spot a threat long before a shorter creature could. Their vigilance, coupled with their kicking ability mean that adult giraffes are a risky proposition for the pride. A younger, smaller calf is easier-to-kill.
The dull beige color of a lion’s coat enables him to blend in with the tall grass of the savanna. Camouflage is also a great defense mechanism against the lion, most notably employed by the zebra, whose stripes are visually disruptive and make them hard to spot. However, the zebra is one of the lions’ most favored prey Their body mass parameter combined with the relatively low level of injury-threat they pose to the lion makes the zebra an acceptable risk. A high body mass parameter means that if caught, they provide sufficient food to make the risk worthwhile.
Warthogs fall outside of the lion’s preferred body mass range. However, their availability, lack of vigilance and relatively low speed mean that it is often too tempting for hungry lions to let a warthog wander by unharassed. This does not mean the warthog is easy prey for the lion, however, their curved horns can easily injure a lion, especially if the lion is unable to subdue the warthog quickly.
Simon Foden has been a freelance writer and editor since 1999. He began his writing career after graduating with a Bachelors of Arts degree in music from Salford University. He has contributed to and written for various magazines including "K9 Magazine" and "Pet Friendly Magazine." He has also written for Dogmagazine.net.