Lions are lazy. They spend much of their time during the day sprawled out like shaggy rugs, only moving to keep in the shade. Dusk to dawn is their most active time, when they hunt.
They get tormented by flies, especially when their muzzles are stained with blood from a recent kill. When the lion can’t stand it any longer, it will raise its head and snap its jaws together in an attempt to trap the fly.
Lions are social creatures, living together in a pride – a dominant male (or more, if they are brothers) with a harem of females and their offspring. As soon as young males become mature, they leave the pride and look for another to challenge the dominant male. Once defeated, the old male will be driven off to lead a solitary existence, eventually dying of starvation as his hunting skills diminish.
Lions are apex predators. Their favourite food is buffalo and an adult is big enough to provide a good meal for the entire pride. Most of the hunting is done by the females acting together to ambush an animal, bring it down by leaping onto its back, then grabbing it around the neck to suffocate it.
They will eat carrion. When hippos were dying from anthrax 14 years ago in the Park, lions would take over a corpse and eat their fill.
Safari guides give names to the prides in South Luangwa National Park – the Mfuwe Pride, the Chipembele Pride, the Hollywood Pride (whose lions seem to know that they look photogenic, and pose like film stars for the cameras).
On Sunday, we saw a pride of seven lions with a buffalo kill at the Luangwa Wafwa – an oxbow lake still containing water five months after the last rains.
When I came to South Luangwa this year in July, there was talk of a man-eating lion in the Nsefu sector of the Park. The wildlife authorities asked an ex-big game hunter if he could find and kill the lion. Once lions discover they can kill people, they may realise how easy it is to grab a child as quick meal. The hunter managed to shoot the man-eater with his camera but couldn’t get a clear shot with his rifle. No further deaths have occurred.