Survival skills Wildlife expert shares 4 simple bush craft skills that will save your life the next time you encounter a pride of lions

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The tragic story of Michael Hodge, a British park owner who was attacked and mauled by a lion he had bottle-raised since birth last week goes to proof one should never play with lions.

play A lion (ABC News)


  • The proverbial “king of beasts,” is scientifically known as Panthera leo and belong to the Felidae family and Mammalia class.
  • Lions have jaw strength of 600 psi and can reach speeds 81 km/h (50 mph).
  • Business Insider SSA spoke to wildlife expert and Kenya’s elephant man, Jim Justus Nyamu on what to do when you encounter a lion.

The ‘king of the Jungle’ is one of the most dangerous animals on the planet.

Standing at about 1.2 metres high, with a thick mane that covers the backside of the head, and the shoulders, 2.1 meters long, excluding the 1-metre tail, weighing 170–230 kg (370–500 pounds) and possessing jaw strength of 600 psi, the male lion is a formidable animal that one should at all times steer clear away from.

play A lioness hunting giraffe. (youtube)


The female lion on the other hand while not as big as the male is incredibly powerful and fast and do most of the hunting, they can reach speeds 81 km/h (50 mph).

The tragic story of Michael Hodge, a British park owner who was attacked and mauled by a lion he had bottle-raised since birth last week goes to proof one should never play with lions.

The proverbial “king of beasts,” is scientifically known as Panthera leo and belong to the Felidae family and Mammalia class.

play Lions have jaw strength of 600 psi. (2OceansVibe)


They have 30 teeth, a lifespan of between 12yrs – 20yrs and gestation period of 105-115 days

Lions are social animals and live in a group called a pride.

Another interesting thing that lions and all other cats posess is a special olfactory organ on the roof of the mouth called a Jacobson's organ. Sometimes, you will see a lion, or even your cat, grimace when smelling something.

They are opening their lips to draw air over their jacobson's organs and this grimacing gesture is called Flehmen.


play Kenya’s elephant man, Jim Justus Nyamu. (Facebook)


Business Insider SSA spoke to wildlife expert and Kenya’s elephant manJim Justus Nyamu who revelled what trigged the lion to attack Mr. Hodge and shared simple survival tips to employ the next time you are in the wild and encounter a pride of lions.

“ It is very difficult for the lion to attack human beings in fact we have had very few cases of lions attacking human beings in the name of hunting,  in fact they are the most sober of animals when it comes to human and wildlife interactions.”

Mr. Nyamu is a trained research scientist with a specialty in Elephants’ and has worked previously for Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS) and Africa Conservation Center.

play A lion resting at Nairobi National park. (courtesy)

Also read: 5 amazing benefits of African bush elephants and why we cannot thrive without them

But while terrifying, attacks by lions on humans are quite rare. Fewer than 100 people are killed by lions each year.

So here is what to do the next time you are in Africa and you see lions in the wild.

#1. Check wind directions

play Lioness mother carries the newborn cub in her mouth. (aboutanimals)

This goes without saying, most wild animals are nocturnal and hunt at night, during the day they have poor eyesight and hence depend on their nostrils to pick up scents.

“If you see any wind animal first know the direction of the wind, animals don’t see well during the day but they are able to smell, the scent is very high so if the wind is blowing from your direction towards theirs they will detect you very fast and they will either run away or attack you but if the wind is blowing from their direction towards you, you can go to as close as twenty, thirty meters.”

#2. Be on the lookout

play A pride of lions (thoughtco)


Mr. Nyamu explains it is important to know some basic behavior traits of lions to be on the safe side.

“Lions live in two solitary territories, the male lion lives alone within the same territory and the lioness lives on the other territory together with other members of the pride and they are very dangerous.”

A pride consists of several generations of lionesses, some of which are related, a smaller number of breeding males, and their cubs. 

The group may consist of as few as 4 or as many as 37 members, but about 15 is the average size.


play Lion Sleeping (Askideas)


Lions are also not active during daytime.

“It will be very difficult for you to see a moving lion during daytime they are very active during early mornings and late in the evening”

It is not strange however to encounter lions during daytime but remaining calm is the word

“But should you encounter lions in the course of the day first of all don’t panic because most of them are hibernating, what this means is most of their senses are somehow like sleeping , you may think they are looking at you but they are actually sleeping”

play Lioness mouth soaked in zebra blood (Reddit)


People who have seen lions at daytime swear they saw the king of the jungle move their tails up as if ready to launch a sprint at them, some even claim they saw them lifting their heads full of fresh blood up shake it off as if to shake off winks of sleep ready for turn them into another meal, all these is true but not exactly what they thought about, Mr. Nyamu explains.

“Because of the kind of food they eat they will always have some kind of blood stains in their mouths and that is why you find a lot of insects hovering around them so you might see them shaking their head and whiskers trying to blow off the insects, they will also use their tail to slap at insects when they become too much but all of these is more subconscious effort than conscious, they are hibernating and they cannot even see you.”

play Lions feeding after hunting. (visindavefur)


While in the wild Mr. Nyamu adds that one should also be on the lookout for not just lions but other animals especially prey animals lions hunt.

“If you see a group of antelopes in the wild it is most likely there are lions not very far from them, don’t be very happy to be near those animals on the other hand if you see an empty plain you can walk across without fear because you will most likely not find anything.”

#3. Steer clear from cubs.

play Lion cubs (Africa Geographic)


What can a cute adorable cub weighing less than 25kgs do to you? You may ask yourself.

Well, they are curious animals after all they belong to the cat family but this quality is what makes them dangerous since they have a habit of following people and in the process attracting the attention of their protective mother who won’t hesitate to sink their canines on your poor trachea.

“Another thing people should be very careful  is when you see a pride with young ones, the cubs, we have had cases of cubs following people because they are very playful in nature so always be on the lookout for cubs because the moment they see you they may start following you and endanger you in the process.”

play Lions cubs play with their father. (Daily Mail)


Whenever you see cubs too, the lion is usually not very far away further increasing your chances of being attacked.

“Whenever you see a pride  and cubs the male is usually not very far away and they will consider anyone near their cubs a threat so move quickly from such an area.”

#4. Don’t scream and run

play Young male lion running at speed (iStock)


This may seem like the most logical thing to do in such a scenario but doing so will only result you in getting killed.

“The mistake most people do when they encounter a pride of lions in the wild is they begin running and shouting this is very dangerous because doing so only wakes the lions up, they sleep with their ears on the ground to detect any kind of movement and will immediately detect you if you begin running, rather when you see a lion, just move slowly to where you were heading and if you avoid the direction of wind the better.”

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