The Serengeti Lion

Ecology Unit
Case Study: Serengeti
Lion Population Study
Panthera leo
“They say that cats have nine lives, but they don’t say that about the
Serengeti lion. Life is hard and precarious on this unforgiving
Warm Up
Watch the following and make several observations
about lions, their habitat, population, etc. Use terms
you have learned about over the last few weeks.
Serengeti National Park
encompasses 5,700
square miles of grassy
plains and woodlands
near the northern border
of Tanzania.
African Lion Habitat In Decline
Serengeti Habitat
• Serengeti National Park
encompasses 5,700 square
miles of grassy plains and
woodlands near the
northern border of
• The greater ecosystem,
within which vast herds of
wildebeest, zebra, and
gazelle migrate seasonally,
following the rains to fresh
Serengeti Habitat
Nowhere else in Africa
supports quite such a
concentrated abundance
of hoofed meat, amid
such open landscape, and
therefore the Serengeti is
a glorious place for lions
Why are grasslands so
rich in wildlife?
Serengeti Habitat
Water, Food and Shelter
Population Characteristics
Life Expectancy:
• An adult male lion might
attain the advanced age of 12
in the wild.
• Adult females can live longer,
even to 19.
Life expectancy at birth is much
lower, for any lion, if you
consider the high mortality
among cubs, half of which die
before age two.
• Tigers are solitary.
• Cougars are solitary.
• No leopard wants to associate
with a bunch of other leopards.
• The lion is the only feline that’s
truly social, living in prides and
coalitions, the size and dynamics
of which are determined by an
intricate balance of evolutionary
costs and benefits.
• Why has social behavior, lacking
in other cats, become so
important in this one?
Live in Family Units…Prides
• pride size varies widely,
from just one adult
female to as many as
• prides in the middle
range succeed best at
protecting their cubs
and maintaining their
territorial tenure.
Population Characteristics
Male Lions
• Usually do not stay with Pride
• May roam looking to join Prides
• May father many cubs and stay
• Important for killing large prey
• Fight among other male for
“right” to mate and join Pride
• What do you think the
characteristics of a successful
male lion will be?
Population Characteristics
• Males will fight to protect
their cubs
• If other male lion become
dominant, it will kill the cubs
• Struggle to reproduce is
• Male coalitions are gangs,
and if they find a strange
male that’s hitting on their
ladies, they’ll kill him.
Population Characteristics
• pride's primary hunters.
• work together to prey upon
antelopes, zebras, wildebeest,
and other large animals of the
open grasslands.
• Many of these animals are
faster than lions, so teamwork
pays off.
• Work together to raise young
• All related
Population Characteristics
The number one cause of
death for lions, in an
undisturbed environment,
is other lions.
• You see a lot of bite
wounds on lions,
reflecting the
competitive struggle for
food, territory,
reproductive success,
sheer survival.
Population Characteristics
• 25 percent of cub loss is owed
to infanticide by incoming
• Females too, given the chance,
will sometimes kill cubs from
neighboring prides. They will
even kill another adult female if
she unwisely wanders into their
Resources are limited, prides are
territorial, and “it’s a tough out
Population Characteristics
Ultimately why lions live in
Holding territory is crucial,
and the best territorial
locations—hot spots, such
as stream confluences,
where prey tend to become
concentrated—serve as
incentive for social
Population Characteristics
Other Pride Benefits:
• protect offspring
• cooperative mothering
• females of a pride are
• pride of two to six adult
females seems to be
optimal on the plains.
Lions In Danger
Only 32,000 Lions Remain
out of 100,000 Roaming
Africa in the 1960s
Africa’s once-thriving
savannahs are undergoing
massive land-use conversion
and burgeoning human
population growth.
Lions In Danger
Some 24,000 of the
continent’s remaining
lions are primarily in 10
strongholds: 4 in East
Africa and 6 in southern
Over 6,000 of the
remaining lions are in
populations of doubtful
long-term viability
Lion populations in West and central Africa are the most acutely threatened,
with many recent local extinctions, even in nominally protected areas.
Which populations do you think are most vulnerable?
What is the danger posed by all this fragmentation of
Lions In Danger: Habitat Loss
• African savannahs are
defined by the researchers
as those areas that receive
between 300 and 1500 mm
(approximately 11 to 59
inches) of rain annually
• from an original area a third
larger than the continental
United States, only 25
percent of African
Savannahs remains
Lions in Danger: Humans
retaliatory killing
trophy hunting
Genetic inbreeding
Interactive Map of Decline
Why Are Lions So Important?
• Large carnivores play
valuable ecological roles
• crucial for balanced,
resilient systems
• powerful cultural and
political symbol
• economically critical for
many African nations
Dangers of Living Near Lion Habitat
When people and lions collide, both suffer
For rural Tanzanians the threat
of lion attack rises and falls
with the phases of the moon,
the nocturnal predators
favoring the darkest nights. But
whether the night is dark or
bright, villagers without
electricity or plumbing have to
walk to the outhouse or to get
water and firewood. People
have even been attacked inside
their homes.
Works Cited
• “Serengeti Lions”, National Geographic. August
2013 By David Quammen, Photograph by Michael
Serengeti Lion Videos
• Photographing Lion With Technology
• African Serengeti
• Lion Battle Zone
Lion Case Study Quiz
• 5 Short Answers
• 5 True or False
• 10 points each
Short Answers
1) List 3 benefits lions get from living in Prides.
2) List 3 ways humans are causing lion populations to
3) List 3 things (resources) found in the Serengeti that
makes it ideal lion habitat.
4) List 3 reasons why lions are so important.
5) Describe how male and female lion behaviors are
True or False
6) Lions in western Africa are doing the best in
terms of population size.
7) The African Savannah was once larger than the
United States.
8) The number one impact humans have on lions is
trophy hunting.
9) It is common for all the females in a pride to be
related to one another.
10) A large number or cubs are killed by other

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