Do male lions hunt?

Yes, male lions do hunt but they are solitary hunters in contrast to lionesses who hunt in groups, in partnership. Further, male lions use the cover of dense vegetation to stalk and ambush in the classic style of wild cats. The general feeling before about 2013 was that male lions sat around to let the lionesses do the hunting and then they would be the masters of the feast afterwards. 

Scared male lion waits for a herd of buffalo to go in the Masai Mara, Kenya
Scared male lion waits for a herd of buffalo to go in the Masai Mara, Kenya. I suspect that this male was not hunting at the tine but came across the buffalo who intimidated him because of their numbers. Lion can be killed by buffalo. Photo: Olav Thokle, 54, from Norway.


But using GPS collar trackers and airborne Light Detection and Ranging measurements which provided 3D mapping of the landscape and vegetation, researchers found that male lions did indeed leap out of thick vegetation to ambush their prey.

The researchers studied a pride of 7 lions in South Africa's Kruger National Park. The females hunt in the open savanna while males tend to hunt in places where there is more vegetation and brush. Both females and males tend to hunt at night.

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Success rates vary substantially. The success rate for zebra is about 11% whereas for wildebeest it is about 30%. This success rate in hunting springhare was found to be 52% in a different study. In one study it was found that the hunting success rate was higher on moonless nights. In this study in Uganda, they found that the overall success rate varied between 27.1% and 30.5%. Lions are generally more successful hunters than other wild cat species.

Sometimes male lions are scared of their prey animals. It depends upon the circumstances. There is a photograph today in the news media online of a male lion scared of a large herd of buffalo. The lion clambers up a tree to safety and stays there for hours while he is surrounded by the buffalo. It happened in the Masai Mara, Kenya. Above is a photograph of the lion waiting patiently.

And there's a story from a study carried out in 1972 about the spotted hyena which stated that "in a non-feeding situation, two lionesses climbed trees to escape from a mob of 18 hyenas". It depends upon the balance of power. If there is one lion at a kill after the others have left and the hyenas move in then that lion will disappear. But in general, quite a small number of lions can clear away quite a large number of hyenas.

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