On the face of it, it’s not a bad life for a male lion with a pride of females and cubs. The females do the hunting but sit back after the kill and allow the male to feast first, with of course the cubs also knowing their place.
The male’s role is protecting his females, breeding and sleeping. Surely it doesn’t come much easier than that?
Often a pride is led by a coalition, two brothers for example, with their seniority established from the outset. Such a coalition makes the protection role that much easier so why does the male live for such a relatively short time in the wild, as opposed to captive lions.
The Lion is built for aggression and there are a great number of young males keen to take over prides, kill the existing cubs and spread their genes. Attacks can be relentless and any sign of weakness from the existing pride male can spell defeat, exile or death.
The lion population of East Africa on the Masai Mara and the Serengeti show a disinterest in the huge tourist numbers visiting those protectorates. Sleeping in the shade during the day, lions rouse themselves at dusk and seek prey, antelope, wildebeest, buffalo and warthog.
Observation from vehicles is safe, out of the vehicle on shoes cat will pounce. The predators of Africa are fairly timid unless threatened or surprised. That is not to say it is safe to walk in these open plains. The important thing for the tourist is to blend in and observe.
Clothing worn needs to be neutral in colour, shoes cat for comfort and support, and a hat to protect the head from the strong sun in these equatorial areas.
The plains of East Africa have been brought to our screens since the days of Armand and Michaela Denis, a Belgian photographer and adventurer and his English wife whose black and white films in the fifties captivated European audiences.
Prior to their coming to our screens, our experience of wild animals was limited to circuses and zoos. We now saw those animals interacting in their natural environment. These places and other wild parts of the world have been a feature of television and film ever since. Whole channels have been dedicated to wildlife documentaries with a series of stunning films being produced on all the predators of the world, the solitary leopard, the lightning quick cheetah, the lion pride and the power of the Bengal Tiger.
Species that were once hunted for trophy kills are now hunted for photography and fiercely protected. Although these predators are competing with man for habitat, their magnificence will surely prevail.
The people who brought these animals to our screens have educated society in such a way that public opinion has to prevail for our descendants to enjoy. As the song goes, in the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight.