It is always a proud moment when a teacher watches their student become a master.
For mama lion, this moment arrived out of the blue and scared the daylights out of her. The lioness and her cub were resting in the zoo after she taught him how to stalk and pounce at prey.
She made the mistake of turning her back on the cub, giving him the perfect opportunity to practice the stalk and pounce skills. But, going by how the lioness almost made a break for it, there is little doubt the next leader of the pride mastered the lesson of the day.
Why Is It Important for Cubs to Learn How to Stalk and Pounce?
Lions have relatively small lungs and hearts, making it difficult to run as fast as most of their prey. However, lions can run up to 50 mph for short bursts covering slightly over 30 feet. In contrast, gazelles can sprint at 60 mph for five to 20 minutes.
Since the prey is much faster and more resilient in maintaining its speed for longer, catching it by surprise is critical.
Lions also hunt bigger animals like wildebeest, zebras, and buffalos, whose size advantage makes it challenging for the lion to bring them down.
The prey also has many tricks that make it difficult to become the lions’ meal. They are fast and agile and depend on the safety of numbers to confuse a predator and stay alive. Moreover, they have a good sense of hearing, smell, and sight, allowing them to escape before the lions arrive.
To increase the chances of a successful hunt, the lion has to stalk its potential prey and only chase after it when it is within a 160-feet striking distance. Lionesses also depend on their numbers to increase their chances of killing prey.
Even so, lions target the sickly and young, which are much easier to hunt than adult, healthy prey.
The lions track them pray by maintaining a low profile, hiding in the long savanna grass, and making slow and calculated moves towards the prey.
How Do Cubs Learn to Hunt?
Cubs usually learn hunting ABCs from their mothers. The learning process begins at six weeks old and continues into adulthood.
During this time, the cubs play hunting games with their sibling or parents, as shown in the video. Learning involves using their physical traits to surprise, catch, and kill prey.
They mockingly use their sharp teeth and claws during the hunting games.
Additionally, they learn how to use their tan color to blend into the grassy surroundings, making it challenging for prey to detect their presence until it is too late.
The cubs will pounce on anything while practicing their hunting skills. With time, they learn that hunting is a strategy that requires some planning and, in most cases, group work. Most lions are ready to score a successful hunt by the time they are 16 months old.