Lion hunting behaviour and vegetation structure in an African savanna

Scott R. Loarie, Craig J. Tambling, Gregory P. Asner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

92 Scopus citations


Emerging evidence suggests that male lions are not dependent on female's hunting skills but are in fact successful hunters. But difficulty locating kills and objectively characterizing landscapes has complicated the comparison of male and female lion hunting strategies. We used airborne Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) measurements of vegetation structure in Kruger National Park, combined with global positioning system (GPS) telemetry data on lion, Panthera leo, kills to quantify lines-of-sight where lion kills occurred compared with areas where lions rested, while controlling for time of day. We found significant differences in use of vegetation structure by male and female lions during hunts. While male lions killed in landscapes with much shorter lines-of-sight (16.2. m) than those in which they rested, there were no significant differences for female lions. These results were consistent across sizes of prey species. The influence of vegetation structure in shaping predator-prey interactions is often hypothesized, but quantitative evidence has been scarce. Although our sample sizes were limited, our results provide a mechanism, ambush hunting versus social hunting in the open, to explain why hunting success of male lions might equal that of females. This study serves as a case study for more complete studies with larger samples sizes and illustrates how LiDAR and GPS telemetry can be used to provide new insight into lion hunting behaviour.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)899-906
Number of pages8
JournalAnimal Behaviour
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Bayesian statistics
  • Carnegie Airborne Observatory
  • GPS telemetry
  • LiDAR
  • Lion
  • Panthera leo
  • Predator-prey interaction
  • Vegetation structure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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