Are lions nocturnal?

“Lions appear to be primarily nocturnal..but there are no hard and fast rules as to when they are active”. Those are the words of two of the best experts on the wild cat species, Mel and Fiona Sunquist. It depends on a range of circumstances and conditions as to whether lions are active at night. Examples of these conditions are as follows:

  • The availability of cover to enable the lion to stalk prey successfully;
  • How many prey animals there are in the area;
  • The habitat type i.e. the sort of landscape in which they are currently living;
  • The season and weather patterns including;
  • Ambient temperatures;
  • And whether lions are hunted or disturbed by local people which they try to avoid.
Lion at night
Photo: Lion at night. They are often most active between 0200 and 0400.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

G. B. Shaller in The Serengeti Lion (1972) published by Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, states that Serengeti lions are usually active at dusk (just after dark) and between the hours of 2am and 4am in the morning, during the night.

C. A. W. Guggisberg, writing in Simba: The life of the lion (1963), published by New York: Harlin Quist, states that there are recorded instances of lions becoming nocturnal in response to sport hunting.

Conclusion – I feel I need to summarise which is this: although lions prefer certain times for activities they are flexible as to when they are most active and they respond to a variety of influences around them in the interests of maximising predation efficiency while simultaneously protecting themselves.

The quote at the beginning of the page comes from Fiona and Mel Sunquist’s book Wild Cats of the World page 289. ISBN: 0-226-77999-8 (cloth).

Photo: Above The Media

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Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior
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