Wild animals have many survival mechanisms, which enable them to survive the harsh environment of the jungle. The jungle environment is under control of natural conditions that are free from any human intervention, and thus, wild animals have utilized diverse survival mechanism to perpetuate themselves for many generations despite the predisposition to threatening circumstances.
Like human beings, wild animals have the ability to define their own territories and own resources that are essential in their survival. Moreover, wild animals have social systems that enable them to have some form of government, which protects their territory and provides safety for their lives, as well as resources. Jungle government is consistent with human government because, both deal with protection of territory and acquisition of resources.
Behavior of certain species of animals usually depicts some social and habitual pattern, which implies that they have constant behavioral pattern as human beings exist in their complex society. Thus, for wild animals to survive in their natural environment, they employ both physical and behavioral adaptations. To elucidate how survival mechanisms of wild animals relate to human beings, this essay explores the survival mechanism and warlike behaviors of lions (Panthera leo).
A lion is a wild animal that belongs to a group of big cats, and it ranks second in size after tiger. The Lion belong to family of felidae, genus Panthera and species leo, hence scientifically called Panthera leo. Due to historic extinction of lions across the world, wild lions currently live in the African parks and game reserves because human activities continues to threaten their existence and survival.
Since lion is the largest carnivore in the jungle, people have called it a king of the jungle because it is extremely powerful and is conspicuous. Both human beings and wild animals fear its presence in a jungle as it is the most dangerous carnivores that cannot tolerate the presence of any unfriendly animals in its territory. Under wild environment, lions can live for about 10-15 years but due to frequent fights and loss of habits due to human encroachment, they rarely live longer.
According to Fumagalli, mane on males, unemotional coloration and tufted tail are some of the prominent features that differentiate lion from other cats (3). Thus, what are the instinctive warlike features and survival mechanisms that lions employ in ruling their jungle, and how do they relate with human beings.
Like humans, lions organize themselves into groups for purposes of mating, hunting, protection, and rearing of young ones. Social organization and behavior differentiates lions from other wild animals because it is quite rare to see a lion hunting and living a solitary life. Their social organization shows that lions are social animals that live in groups.
Social organization of lions is a behavioral adaption that enables them to guard their territory and gather their energies together for hunting. Fumagalli argues that social organization enable lions to build a strong community that allow them to conquer their prey, rule their territory, and dominate jungle environment (4).
The community of lions is similar with the human community that has been expanding with time, and it has now become a global community. Thus, existence of community of lion in a jungle is attributable to dominating influence of lion because where ever lions go, they displace other animals, particularly their prey. Since other communities of wild animals fear lions, they constantly migrate from one habitat to another in search of safer habitats where lions are absent.
Social organization of lions is also similar to humans because they live in groups called prides. Pride of lions is similar to human families because it consists of a lion, lionesses, and cubs.
A pride of lions is like a polygamous family where there is a father, mothers, and children. Two or more lions cannot live together in one pride because they will fight for mates until one remain to take control of the pride. West and Packer explain that, when male cubs mature, the dominant lions drive them away from the pride so that they can wander in search of a pride that has no lions and start dominating it (1340).
Such behavior is similar to that observed in human, for when a son matures, the family lets him free to look for a partner and start his own family. However, the contrast is that humans are not always polygamous, unlike lions where they have multiple lionesses in a pride. While humans marry from unrelated families, lions have no limitations since a pride consists of about five related lionesses. Therefore, social organization of pride is similar to polygamous family of humans.
In addition to family organization, lions devolve responsibilities in their society to enable them cope with varied challenges that they face in the jungle. Fumagalli states that, lions have structured their society according to job hierarchies that they perform (4).
For instance, lioness’s functions are mainly to hunt and take care of the cubs, while lions’ functions are to offer protection to the pride and lead them during migration. When lioness kills a prey, lion has a right to feed first, followed lioness, while cubs are the last to feed because they have minimal function in the pride.
Hence, lionesses have a great responsibility in ensuring that the pride gets food when needed. Examination of pride devolvement of responsibilities shows that it is similar with how human families operate. In human families, the father, mother, and children have different responsibilities that they play. However, the difference is that while lioness is the provider of the pride, father is the provider of the family in the human context.
Since lions have social organization that relates to human organization, they depict warlike behaviors in their normal lives. One of the main warlike behaviors is evident in how lions defend their territories. Lions feel threatened by other carnivores that come into their territory, for they increase competition of meager resources that they need, particularly animals of prey.
Carnivores such as hyena and cheetah offer serious competition to lions; thus, lions do not want to see them in their territory. According to Trinkel and Kastberger, hyenas are carnivores that give lions high competition is the jungle because they are scavengers that feed on any carcass that lions leave after feeding (221).
Since hyenas are scavengers, they do not let lions preserve their prey, hence compelling them to hunt on a daily basis. To defend their territory, lions usually fight and scare other carnivores from their territory by roaring hungrily. Normally, when a lion roars, it alerts and scares other carnivores that may be gradually approaching the territory.
The manner, in which lions defend their territory, is similar to the way human beings have acquired land to build homes for protecting themselves against intruders, who tend to increase competition. On an individual level, human’s territory consists of land and home that one has acquired and built to free oneself from interference of intruders who seek to expand their territory using violence means.
Such intruders include thieves, robbers, and thugs among other forms of crime that have no boundaries. Thus, the need to expand territory is similar in both humans and lions, as it is essential in creating a safe environment that is free from intruders.
Trinkel and Kastberger argue that, the foremost threat that is facing lions in the jungle is the intrusion of more carnivores because they can overwhelm lions and force them to migrate to other destinations (222). Thus, survival mechanism of lions in the jungle involves expansion of territory by fighting and scaring other animals away, especially carnivores for they threaten their survival.
Lions are not always vigilant to protect their territories because they spend about 14 hours sleeping, and thus they mostly sleep in turns. When lioness and cubs are sleeping, lions remain awake for their responsibility is to protect the pride from not only roaming lions, but also from other carnivores that seem to threaten the existence of their cubs. Moreover, given that the jungle is so expansive, lions usually mark their territory while wandering and hunting.
According to Heinsohn, lions use urine, feces, and scaring roars to mark their territory (1144). When other wild animals come into marked territories, they feel threatened because territorial markers always remind them of impending attacks from lions. Roaring of lions in the jungle signifies their aggressive behavior and readiness to cause violence by attacking intruders, particularly carnivores that tend to give them competition in hunting.
Therefore, marking of territory by lions is similar to the way human fence where they live and putting warning signs that caution other humans against trespassing. If one ignores signs that warn against trespassing, normally a trespasser is prone to violent treatment, which involves assault and arrest.
From the behavior of lions in the jungle, humans can learn that territory marking is a natural instinct that lions use to protect themselves plus their pride from aggression of intruders because it threatens their existence. Like lions, humans also employ security personnel to guard their territory against intrusion.
As lions take turns while sleeping and guard their territory against roaming lions and other intruders, humans also has security personnel who constantly give vigilance to assigned territory. Based on how lions mark and guard their territory, humans can learn that the safety of a territory depends on concerted efforts of everyone. However, the difference in territorial marking is that while lions use landmarks to define their territory, human demarcate their territory using fences and houses.
While selecting their mates, lions depict warlike behaviors because they fiercely fight to determine the head of a pride. Pride is a social unit of lions, which is susceptible to violence because lions normally fight over mates.
Although lionesses take care of the cubs when they are young, when male cubs mature, the head of the pride threatens their survival and thus, forces them out of the pride to avoid conflicts in the future, in terms of domination of the pride. West and Packer argue that, male cubs can enjoy staying in native pride until when they are about three years old, then driven out by lion, which is the leader of the pride (1341).
Given that a pride consists of more than five lionesses, lions find it honorable to head the pride and be the king of the jungle. Thus, by heading a pride, lion gets social power that demonstrates its strengths in a jungle environment that is full of roaming lions without any pride. It, therefore, means that lions fights over leadership of a pride, which has its basis on mate selection.
When male cubs mature and get out of their native pride, they roam in the jungle looking for a pride that they can conquer and dominate. The roaming lions are terribly angry, and thus are poised to face any lions that they meet as they look for a pride to lead and begin their own generation until when they are too old to lead. Since roaming lions are usually young, they are unable to conquer well-established prides; hence, they wander until a time when they are mature enough to face other lions that are leading prides.
During roaming, when lions meet weaker or aged lion that is leading a pride, they fight and take over the pride. According to West and Packer, battles over mates are particularly brutal because it results into severe injurious on fighting lions and occasionally death of a weaker lion (1342). Therefore, lions depict warlike behaviors when selecting their mates and prides for them to achieve their dominance through violence.
Comparatively, it is evident that lions are like human beings as both are willing to sacrifice themselves so that they can get their mates. While lions fight physical to win their mates, human beings employ a vast deal of resources when convincing their potential mates to accept them. Moreover, humans are similar to the lions because they depict aggressive behavior in protection their mates.
Normally, a husband can do anything to protect his wife and children against aggression from other men. Therefore, the brutal nature of violence that lions depict in protecting their prides is not unique to them alone; it is closely related to the aggressive behavior of humans when guarding their families. The difference with the violence is that while weak lion is willing to vacate pride and territory, human beings are unable for they have various means of fighting enemies.
What compels lions to mark their territory is competition for resources. In the jungle, many carnivores compete for the same animals of prey. For instance, hyenas, cheetahs, and vultures give competition to lions, in terms of hunting and feeding on carcasses.
For lions to have sufficient resources, they aggressively fight and scare other carnivores from their territory. Normally, lions do not run as fast as cheetahs when catching their prey; thus, they mark their territory so that they can dominate as the only hunters. To catch their prey, lions wait at strategic positions where they target young or old prey, which are unable to run fast.
If other carnivores are present in the same territory, it means that competition will increase because there would be no young or old prey to catch; hence, lions will have a daunting task of hunting. According to Trinkel and Kastberger, what has caused lion population to decrease in African parks in increased competition from other carnivores that they have common prey (223).
Thus, even humans struggle to hoard meager resources such as land and money, which assure them of a happy life. Each country in the world is struggling to amass as many resources as possible to enhance economic capacity of people within its territory. The difference is that while lions are unable to control their resources, humans have an elaborate system that has enabled them to scramble and preserve their resources for posterity.
Within and between prides, lions also portray some aggressive behavior that often results into violence. Normally, when lioness has obtained a prey for the pride to feed on, the lion is the first to feed leaving cubs and other lionesses to stare hungrily. Occasionally, since cubs cannot withstand hunger while watching the lion feeding, they tend to interrupt the lion by biting and snatching away the prey, and thus elicit violence.
When a lion experience disturbance while feeding, it becomes angry and start fighting fiercely with the cubs. At some instances, the fight results into death of a cub, and the lioness has nothing to do rather than watch harmlessly. Since the source of conflict within the pride is feeding, it is similar to human violence because quite often disagreement within the family emanates from utilization of resources. For instance, lack of food or misuse of food with stringent family budget causes disagreement that eventually leads into violence.
However, the difference between lions and human beings is violence that results from feeding is sharing of food. In humans, family begins by feeding children first, then followed by adults, while lions, pride begins by feeding lion then cubs comes last. From such difference, human can learn that the cause of violence in a family level has a rational basis unlike in the case of lions where they are insensitive to the needs of their cubs.
Murder is a common occurrence in the jungle because, roaming lions wander throughout the jungle looking for a pride with weak lion so that they can conquer and take over the leadership of the pride.
When lions fight over leadership struggles of pride, there is a high probability that a weaker or old lion will die, and in some instances forced to wander in solitude. Therefore, every time there is leadership takeover of a pride, murder occurs, and thus decimate the population of old and weak lions in the jungle. Murder is also evident in humans when leaders fight for leadership.
Across the world, it is apparent that during political campaigns and leadership takeover, there is murder of civilians. The difference is that while leaders fight in lions, civilians fight in humans. Hence, civilians need to learn that leaders should take responsibility of their leadership struggles and not use them as a sacrifice for gaining leadership.
Additionally, genocide occurs in the jungle because roaming lions that do not have pride are angry about their solitary life, and thus when they encounter cubs of another lion, they kill all of them.
Packer and Pusey argue that, infanticide by roaming lions is a survival mechanism that lions employ in preventing lionesses from rearing cubs that are not theirs and further expedite estrous cycle of lionesses (716). Genocide of young cubs means that a lion do wants to take care of strange cubs.
This behavior is similar to that of humans because men rarely get married to a woman with children that are not his. Form this behavior; humans can learn that children from another parent create instability in a marriage. The difference in genocide is that, while genocide occurs in the context of pride in lions, in humans, it occurs in the context of races and ethnicities.
Survival mechanisms of a lion in the jungle resemble those of human beings although they are somewhat primitive. The warlike behaviors and attributes of lion have made it termed as king of the jungle, which is similar to human kings who rule defined territories. The organizational social system relates to that of human, which consists of families and territories that need leadership.
Thus, for social organization to function effectively, lions battle over territories, pride, and resources that result into murder and at times genocide of cubs. Thus, humans beings can learn from lions that violent struggles for territory, resources and mates is a natural instinct that is also present in wild animals.
Fumagalli, Markus. “Pathera leo: The Lion.” Nature, 2007: 1-12
Heinsohn, Robert. “Group Territory in Two Populations of African Lions.” Animal Behavior 53.6 (1997): 1143-1147.
Packer, Craig, and Pusey, Anne. “Adaptations of Female Lions to Infanticide by Incoming Males.” The American naturalist 121.5 (1983): 716-728.
Trinkel, Martina, and Kastberger, Gerald. “Competitive Interactions Between Spotted
Hyenas and Lions in the Etosha National Park, Namibia.” African Journal of Ecology 43.3 (2005): 220-224.
West, Peyton, and Packer, Craig. “Sexual Selection, Temperature and the Lion’s Mane.” Science 297.5585 (2002): 1339-1343.