Tuesday 29 June 2021

Lion ate 73 pounds of meat in one night

The food consumption of wild lions is very impressive. They can eat enormous amounts of meat at one sitting. G. B. Schaller in his book The Serengeti Lion published in 1972, records one male lion eating 33 kg or 73 pounds of flesh during a single night while another ate 27.4 kg during the night. He also reported that 4 lionesses each ate 25 kg of zebra in 5 hours and 2 males ate an estimated 43 kg of topi in 20 hours. He estimated that lions fed at an average rate of 20 minutes per kilogram per lion.

Lion eating. Photo in public domain.

If a large group of lions can't finish off the entirety of the animal that they've have killed by consuming it they occasionally try to protect the remains by staying nearby and sometimes they may try to bury the carcass. The trouble is that scavengers are very numerous over their entire distribution and their habitat is very open. Therefore, it is difficult to hide and protect animals that they have killed.

Perhaps lions realise this because Schaller recorded only 13 instances of lions covering the remains of their kills. Lions tend to eat the viscera, size and rump first. Sometimes they disembowel their prey and bury the viscera but it's rare in the Serengeti (C.A. Guggisberg in Simba: The life of a lion). It is in the interests of lions to eat very quickly and sometimes it is not worth the effort to move a kill to protect it. They can consume an entire animal as a group within an hour.

They will eat rotten flesh covered in maggots. It is said that the estimated minimum daily requirement of food intake for a lioness is 5 to 8.5 kg per day. Whether they achieve this or not depends upon the kill rate and the number of lions feeding together with the prey size and prey abundance. Sometimes they go through a season when prey is less abundant and the average daily food intake of a pride can be less than 3 kg per lioness. During a 'prey-good' season their intake will increase to about 6 kg per lioness per day.

Even small groups of lions prefer large prey animals in order to allow each member to eat their required daily minimum. It depends in which park/reserve the lions live as to whether there is a good percentage of large prey animals such as buffaloes. In the Kalahari large ungulate densities are extremely low and small mammals and juvenile ungulates constitute more than 50% of kills.

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