By Lorne Sulcas
In the ruthless marketplace of Nature, it doesn’t matter where you are on the food chain, even for the predators, it’s fiercely competitive: it truly is “eat or be eaten”. And that’s why for these hunters, everything necessarily has to be about getting RESULTS.
One way to continually get results and survive competition is to do what no-one else is doing; to occupy a NICHE in that marketplace that’s unique, distinct. Each of Africa’s three big cats –lion, leopard and cheetah- has a distinct physiology, appearance, behaviour pattern, hunting style, habitat and prey preference. What can we learn from them?
Lion – SYNERGY
At the top of the ‘pecking order’ is the lion, the only truly social of the big cats. Lions collaborate to form teams we call a ‘pride’ which allows them to synergise their efforts to be able to hunt the massive herbivores -wildebeest, zebra, giraffe, buffalo and in some cases even elephant- that the other cats can’t hunt. This way they can get results that the other felines can’t. Their collaboration and synergy also allows them to defend a much larger or more prime territory, which in turn gives them access to prime habitat and resources.
Relationships between team members are key. Lions are constantly reinforcing the strong social bonds between the pride members and male coalitions, with greeting rituals, play, and exercising the stalking, movements and muscles used during the hunt. Every member of the team is extremely powerful, committed and hungry. Every member of the team takes ownership and performs – there are no passengers holding the rest of the team back.
Do you continually work on key relationships? Are you collaborating to create synergy?
Leopard – ADAPTABILITY
The leopard is a solitary hunter; versatile in almost any circumstances and habitats, but most comfortable anywhere where there’s cover. Because its hunt is typically a mindful, patient, focused stalk to within metres of its prey, followed by a lightning fast chase over a short distance, its energy expenditure during the hunt is relatively small, and it can afford to be highly opportunistic, feeding on a huge variety of prey. This and the leopard’s incredible focus, enables it to survive not just the competition over a specific prey species, but changing circumstances and climactic conditions.
Pound for pound, the leopard is the strongest of the 3 cats for its biomass and in areas where it’s at risk of losing its kills to larger predators, it can hoist prey three times its own body weight into a tree for strategic protection, where it will feed at its leisure sometimes over up to 48 or even 72 hours.
Do you approach your goals mindfully and with focus? Can you adapt when things change?
Cheetah – EFFICIENCY
Because the cheetah is built for speed not strength, it is right at the bottom of the totem pole of the large carnivores and is constantly at risk of losing its kills and its cubs to the larger carnivores. So it avoids competition by hunting typically on wide open areas where it can run down its prey, and during the day –sometimes even in the heat of the day- when its competition is sleeping. It also specialises, hunting mostly medium to small gazelles.
With incredible speed, but limited stamina, the cheetah has to be very careful and strategic in terms of opportunity selection and energy expenditure, and has to make its efforts really count. As a result, the cheetah has the highest ‘conversion rate’ of Africa’s three big cats: about 80% of cheetah’s attempts result in successful kills. Mom proactively creates low risk opportunities for the cubs to learn how to hunt, and through this enabling and empowering leadership, the species continues to survive in spite of the odds and massive competition.
Are you making your time really count? Are you creating opportunities?