Predators of different species, and in many cases of the same species, compete for food wherever they occur in close proximity to each. Inter-predator dominance, referred to as the Predator Chain, is clearly defined in areas where predators occur in large numbers.
Lions and hyenas
In general lions are at the top of the predator chain in most wilderness areas in Africa but there are exceptions where a large clan of hyenas has intimidated the resident lions into some submission – meaning that the lions will try and keep out of the way of the hyenas as much as possible.
In areas where lions are the top predator hyenas are known to chase lions off kills – mostly when the ratio overwhelmingly favours the hyenas. This occurs only when female lions are involved. Hyenas are wary of male lions and will stay out of the way when males are in the picture.
The lower order of the predator chain
Whilst lions and hyenas fight it out at the top of the predator chain – the bottom of the chain is taken up by the cheetah. Known as the fastest predator on earth the cheetah is not strong enough to protect itself from those above it and usually moves out of an area when the competition becomes too much.
Personal observations include a cheetah mother and four adult cubs being constantly harassed by hyenas – to such an extent that the hyenas would follow the cheetahs when hunting and move in and steal the kill before the cheetahs could begin to feed. The cheetah family eventually moved out of the area.
Other observations include a jackal stealing a kill from a single cheetah. As the cheetahs use most of their energy in the chase they usually cannot fight back when other predators move in to steal their kill. Although fast over short distances they lack stamina.
Surviving in the predator chain
The constant battle between the predators of Africa means that ways have to be developed to survive. The cheetah often uses up all energy in the chase and has to rest before feeding. This is a crucial time as other predators have the opportunity for an easy meal.
Cheetah kills are clean affairs – they suffocate their victim after bringing it down, thus preventing the blood scent from attracting other predators. After resting cheetah feed quickly as other predators in the area will pick up the blood scent and move in and steal the kill.
Leopards often drag their kills into trees to store and feed off at leisure. Except for isolated cases other predators do not climb trees so the meal is safe from scavenging.