What comes to mind when you hear the word Lion? Many people might say noble hunter, king of beasts, top predator… Others may say mindless killers, man-eaters, pests. All of these can and do describe the lion although I most certainly will take exception to the latter because they are not based on the lions instinct to do what comes natural to them, it is man that has created these misconceptions… and yes, lions on the very rare occasion can and do attack humans, but it is not as a food source, it is a perceived threat that causes a lion too attack humans and that is not their fault. As for mindless killers, science tells us otherwise. Lions show a unique purpose to every natural situation they face, whether it is on a hunt, political dynamics within the pride, even facing what can be a potential disaster of a takeover by outside males, lions show an amazing ability too think for themselves as individuals but always with the framework and benefit of the pride, especially the females. Of course lions are possibly the one cat species that live in groups, I say possibly because Hyenas are considered more along the lines of pantherinae (feline sub-species) than luporum (wolf), they also live in groups called appropriately enough, Clans. Hyenas are magnificent creatures and are the lions eternal enemy, more on that in the future.
Beginning with the dawn if man, we have competed with them for the same food, lived among them on the plains, deserts, forests and rocky outcrops of Africa, Asia and the Middle East. As much as they have haunted our dreams, they equally have our deep admiration and reverence for their natural instincts, hunting prowess and especially their unique (among big cats) group cooperation. Perhaps early humans learned the lions hunting techniques from observing afar and adopted it as our own. For instance, depending on which prey species is on the menu, lions will almost always adopt different strategies, which tosses the “mindless killer” label out the window as far as I’m concerned. As we are learning more about the lion, we learn more about ourselves, our past and possibly our future. Next time you see a lion, observe it’s mannerisms when they are together at rest or play, look into their eyes, even through the lens of the camera… something is there, more enriching, more deep and more personal that they can teach all of us.