Lions take down an elephant

25 03 2007

The diversity in hunting styles of big cats has always amazed me; cape buffalo, giraffes, and even elephants have all fallen prey to lions. When I was younger, these animals were presented as almost invulnerable to the attacks of carnivores, their size, speed, armaments, or morphology making them impossible to catch and kill (just how are you supposed to deliver a jugular bite to a giraffe when their head is so high up?). Today, we know this is not the case, and even though elephants may not make up the everyday diet of some prides, there are groups of lions that have been able to take down large elephants, as can be seen in this video;

What I’m wondering is this; why was this elephant alone? Elephants are very social animals that live in matriarchies, so unless this was a young male that has been kicked out of the herd when he comes of age (as is elephant etiquette), I have to wonder why this one was on its own. The documentary also fails to show us how the lions actually killed the great pachyderm, so the question of how they manage to overpower and kill such a large animal is unanswered by the clip. It also makes me wonder about the taphonomy of African Elephants; would adolescent males be less likely to be found because they are more likely to be killed by predators or in competition with older males? Elephants also have a habit of examining the bones of deceased members of their own kind, disturbing whatever burial might be occurring, so for an elephant to be preserved (and eventually fossilized) I would imagine that burial would have to happen very quickly or at least in such a way to make the body largely inaccessible to predators and curious elephants.



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