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Scent Marking

Scent marking by lions plays an important role in territorial advertising. Male lions will back up against some convenient vegetation and eject squirts and spray of pungent smelling urine against the foliage. The strong tomcat odour has a lingering quality which can be detected even by humans with a relatively poorly developed sense of smell, many hours later. Hidden within the liquid urine is an amazing array of chemical compounds which in peculiar and specific arrangement convey much information interpreted and understood only by other members of the same species. “This is my turf….keep off”. “Young male looking for young female”. “I am old and cantankerous”. Who knows what level of communication can be conveyed in the chemical arrangements of urine. Lion faeces is also used as a means of territorial marking. Extremely strong smelling, dark black and tarry it no doubt also contains chemical signals which communicate information to other lions.
The claws of lion can become blunted with use and to keep them sharp they are often honed on the trunks of trees with hard bark. The careful observer can spot the scratch marks on tree trunks and if the sign is fresh should be able to find tracks of the hind feet at the base of the tree where the lion has stood up on the hind legs to rake the bark. Most people will be familiar with this type of behaviour in house cats. It is not known if this behaviour has territorial marking implications but could be possible if some type of secretion is wiped onto the bark which will leave a lingering odour.