Lions (Panthera leo) specialising on a marine diet in the Skeleton Coast Park, Namibia
Keywords:African lion, Cape fur seal, coastal habitat, cormorant, desert, marine diet, maritime mammal, Namibia, predation
The Skeleton Coast National Park in the northwest of Namibia supports a small population of African lions (Panthera leo) that are adapted to the harsh hyper-arid conditions. After a period of prolonged human-lion conflict during the 1980s lions disappeared from the Skeleton Coast for more than a decade. Due to favourable conditions, such as the development of communal conservancies and the growth of tourism in the area, lion populations started to recover along the Skeleton Coast in 2002. However, it took another 15 years for the lions to rediscover the rich marine food resources that their predecessors utilised in the 1980s. In 2017 two prides of lions started hunting cormorants (Phalacrocorax spp.) and Cape fur seals (Arctocephalus pusillus) on a regular basis. Over a period of 18 months, three young lioness of the Hoanib Floodplain pride killed two greater flamingos (Phoenicopterus roseus), 60 cormorants and 18 seals. The marine diet contributed to 79% of their food items and 86% of the biomass they consumed during this period. The marine resources along the intertidal zone of the Skeleton Coast provide an important source of energy and nutrients to lions that they could rely on when their terrestrial food resources are scarce.
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