Lions are the top predator in any African
ecosystem in which they occur, and are the largest of the
African carnivores. With their large, muscular, tawny bodies
and characteristic manes, they are unmistakable, and are treated
with awe by prey species as well as most visitors to game
reserves, whether it be their first visit or their fiftieth.
Lions, like other cats, adapt well to their particular circumstances.
They select their prey from the spectrum of available animals,
but, given a choice, they exhibit a preference for large ungulates.
It is believed that the social structure of lions has evolved
from the necessity of co-operation in bringing down such large
animals successfully. Studies have shown that the weight range
of prey is between 20 to 800 kg in mass. On the upper end
of the scale are giraffe and cape buffalo while the lower
end includes gazelle and warthog. Lions in groups may attack
and kill heavier animals such as rhinoceros and hippopotamus
but it is not common. Smaller animals such as steenbok and
springhares will tide lions over during hard times, especially
in areas where larger game migrate and are therefore not always