Both African and Asiatic lions will seek out specific habitat features for the purpose of shelter, whether it’s to rear their young or beat the heat. Indeed, these powerful big cats -- such explosive beasts in action -- spend most of their time lounging and napping, conserving their energy mainly for the hunt.
Shelter for Cubs
Lionesses utilize heavy cover to give birth and shelter their cubs, vulnerable to a wide range of predators -- including male lions. Choice "denning" sites include deep thickets or dense grass, heavy riverside woods and rock outcrops, including the isolated, boulder-studded buttes called “kopjes” in East Africa.
Daytime Resting Sites
To conserve energy and contend with the tropical heat, lions spend much of the daylight hours sleeping or resting. They commonly nap under trees, within thickets or atop cool, breezy kopjes. While not nearly as adept at climbing as leopards, lions will clamber into low-hanging canopies to lounge.
Trees also offer lions a refuge from biting insects and aggressive beasts such as elephants and buffalo. The lions of Tanzania’s Lake Manyara National Park are especially known for tree-climbing. Some speculate that the park’s dense populations of tsetse flies and Cape buffalo -- which, while favored lion prey, can be dangerous to the big cats -- may encourage lions to seek out aboveground resting places.
- Journal of Animal Ecology; Planning for Success: Serengeti Lions Seek Prey Accessibility Rather than Abundance
- The Behavior Guide to African Mammals; Richard D. Estes
- University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences: Lion Research Center: Reproduction
- The Serengeti Lion; George B. Schaller
- University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences: Lion Research Center: Daily Life
About the Author
Ethan Shaw is an independent naturalist and freelance outdoors/nature writer based in Oregon. He holds a B.S. in Wildlife Ecology and a graduate certificate in G.I.S. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His primary interests from both a fieldwork and writing perspective include landscape ecology, geomorphology, the classification of ecosystems, biogeography, wildlife/habitat relationships, and historical ecology. He’s written for a variety of outlets, including Earth Touch News, RootsRated, Backpacker, Terrain.org, and Atlas Obscura, and is presently working on a field guide.
Digital Vision./Photodisc/Getty Images