National Geographic: Lions of the African Night

Synopsis:
Year:
1987
12 Views

It is night in the African bush

where the familiar becomes mysterious

and the unfamiliar is strange indeed.

It is the time and place

where lions come into their own...

and man does not willingly venture.

In this dark realm they reign supreme;

they are the kings;

They are the Lions

of the African Night.

A day in the bushveld of

southern Africa draws to a close

and a pride of 30 lions

that has dozed and slept through

the long, hot day lazes on.

This pride is unusually large two

or three times larger than most,

and for small cubs life in such

a pride can be hard.

When food is scarce, competition

at kills is fierce,

and it's the little cubs

that always suffer.

The males that sired these cubs

have deserted their big family to

form a new pride

elsewhere

with younger lionesses.

Now, all the adults

in this pride are females.

They rest on, waiting

for the day to cool,

for lions are seldom active

when it is hot

and like most prides,

this one hunts mainly at night.

They'll hardly stir until

the sun has set.

As the day winds down, young baboons

cavort in a last burst of play.

The sounds of day merge through the

evening into those of an African night

A hyena sniffs the night

as the clan set out on their hunt.

A toktokkie beetle taps out the signal

that will find him a mate.

And from somewhere close

by comes an answer.

Each hole, cut to

the same pear-shaped pattern,

serves the same remarkable purpose

of magnifying the sound

made by the slender tree cricket

that shapes them.

To advertise for a mate,

the male cricket has developed

a system comparable to a loudspeaker

where a vibrating membrane his wings

is surrounded by a baffle.

The leaf is the cricket's soundboard,

and the sound produced is magnified

in intensity as much as three times.

But simply tapping on the ground

seems to work well enough for

the toktokkie beetles.

In their first hunt of the night

the lions have failed to make a kill.

They have panicked and scattered

a mixed herd of zebra and wildebeest,

which are still vulnerable

as they try to regroup.

The lions have approached their prey

on a broad front

and are now spread out at intervals

through the bush listening.

When hunting at night, lions rely

almost entirely on their acute hearing

They move noiselessly through

the darkness,

stopping frequently

to stand motionless

listening for the slightest sounds

of their prey

Although the lions may not see

any better at night than their prey,

the deep shadows provide more cover

for stalking.

The herd has picked up the scent.

Lions pay no heed to wind direction.

They're not aware that the wind

will carry their scent to the quarry.

And, like most hunts,

this one ends in failure.

With so many mouths to feed, a pride

like this one has to hunts every night.

To survive, each year

they will have to kill about

From crevices, burrows, and holes

animals that have slept through

the day are emerging.

These night apes will feed until

daybreak on tree resin and insects

moving with prodigious leaps

through the trees.

Hippos, having slept and rested in

the river all day, emerge now to feed.

At night they graze on grasses

and sedges along the river's edge.

But sometimes when food is scarce,

they will lumber several miles inland

to find enough to eat.

By dawn each will have consumed

about 80 pounds of forage.

From his burrow entrance a porcupine

tests the safety of the night

before he leads his family out to feed

The tiny pups, only a few weeks old,

will accompany

their parents along regular trails

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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