Lion, Eagle, Leopard, Orca, Polar Bear

An apex predator is the hardcore animal on the prime of its meals chain, the baddest of the dangerous, with no pure predators in its ecosystem. Consider the type of creature that may strut, swim or fly confidently via its habitat, unconcerned, by no means having to look over its shoulder—a lion, a snow leopard, an orca, a polar bear or golden eagle, for instance. However it’s not all take and no give; these animals fulfill crucial ecological roles, as they regulate prey populations and alter prey habits in ways in which significantly profit many different species.

These dominant predators usually have huge dwelling ranges however small inhabitants densities, which sadly means human interference and habitat encroachment may cause severe threats to their survival. In some cases, people have launched apex predators—a transparent instance being dingos in Australia, which scientists assume have been dropped at the nation between 3,000 to 4,000 years in the past. Different instances, if people kill off the ecosystem’s pure apex predators, different animals rise as much as develop into the dominant predators. As an example, when settlers killed off wolves, pumas and mountain lions, coyotes stepped into their roles as the brand new dominant hunter on these lands. 

Lowering apex predator populations has a significant impact on the ecosystems the place they dwell, as a result of when the highest predators disappear from an ecosystem, medium-sized predators’ populations (mesopredators) rapidly growth. It’s referred to as mesopredator launch. This phenomenon decreases biodiversity, as a result of the sudden spike in mesopredator populations can pressure adjustments manner too quick in an ecosystem’s buildings. In keeping with the trophic cascade concept, apex predation is essential in limiting an ecosystem’s inhabitants dimension for numerous species.

Gray wolf

One of many clearest examples of a trophic cascade is the grey wolf’s eradication after which reintroduction in Yellowstone Nationwide Park. When people interfered with the grey wolf inhabitants within the park, the elk inhabitants exploded and grazed throughout the land, killing off of younger brush and bushes and forcing beavers to maneuver out of the world. It was positively a type of “whoopsie” eventualities in science. Since their reintroduction within the Nineties, grey wolves have introduced some steadiness again to the ecosystem

Seeing an apex predator maneuver unbothered within the wild is a sight to behold. If that’s one thing you could have in your journey bucket listing, listed below are 5 journey experiences that may’t be missed:

1. Polar Bears

For hundreds of years, polar bears have reigned as the highest predator within the Arctic marine areas. Other than a number of huge walruses capable of pierce an unfortunate polar bear’s physique with their highly effective tusks, nobody outdoors of people stands an opportunity at hurting these animals. Their migration swims common greater than 100 miles and are helped by the truth that their huge dinner-plate-sized paws are barely webbed. They’ll odor prey from greater than 20 miles away and might even odor an animal from below three ft of dense snow. Polar bears are the largest bear species—males could be 10 ft in size and as much as 1,700 kilos. Ursus maritimus have giant, barely hooked canine tooth virtually two inches in size that may tear via thick blubber and meat with out a drawback.

Polar bear in Churchill Canada.

© Brad Josephs

On our Traditional Polar Bear Journey within the Polar Bear Capital of the World in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada, you may observe and {photograph} these beasts from the security of our Polar Rover automobiles. It’s doable to see moms patiently instructing their child cubs the methods of the world, younger males play-fighting or a large lone male bear slowly meandering over the silent tundra. Our passionate and well-educated Expedition Leaders interpret all of this habits and may also help you perceive these lovely creatures higher. You by no means know the place or when you could spot a polar bear in these elements—we’ve even had journeys the place we see them from our bus proper after touchdown on the airport! 


The orca (Orcinus orca) isn’t referred to as the killer whale for no motive. This immediately recognizable black and white marine animal is definitely a member of the dolphin household and combines curiosity and charisma with stealthy predation expertise to make it one of the vital feared animals within the ocean. They don’t work alone, both—these extremely social beings journey in pods of as much as 40 people and have complicated types of communication. Orcas’ teamwork, agility, stamina, dimension (they’ll weigh as much as six tons!), power and intelligence have cemented their fame as one of many planet’s premier apex predators. They strategize their coordinated hunts in a manner that lets them pursue animals 5 instances their dimension. They usually goal whale calves, separating them from their moms and drowning them, then tearing into them with their 45 tooth which can be three inches lengthy.

Orca (Orcinus / cetacean / killer whale) shows his head and fin in the fjords of the lofoten in norway during whale watching

Killer whales are present in all oceans, however they’re most ample in colder waters like Antarctica, Norway and Alaska. It’s estimated that half the world’s inhabitants of orcas (round 25,000) dangle on the market. On an expedition cruise of the Antarctic Peninsula, some vacationers have even been capable of witness orcas crashing into icebergs to knock unsuspecting sea lions into the water. 

Orcas are additionally generally noticed on the coastal fjords of western Iceland, the place they feast on the ample herring and sometimes placed on vivid aerial shows. The village of Grundarfjörður on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula is a major location for orca watching, however Húsavík on Iceland’s northern coast is one other place orcas name dwelling, primarily throughout summer season. The waters round Norway’s northern area are among the richest fishing spots on the earth, making it a major place for orcas to return and dine as properly. 

In North America, Alaska has 18 pods of resident orcas, and most like to assemble within the Kenai Fjords, round Resurrection Bay, in addition to in Kachemak Bay. When the pack ice advances off the north of the state, they head for the shallow waters off south-eastern Alaska to gorge on king salmon and for the females to calve. 

Snow Leopard

Hidden excessive within the Himalayas, camouflaged between the tough ice and rocky terrain, lives a stealthy apex predator often called the “ghost of the mountain.” The elusive snow leopard is an absolute grasp camouflage artist that has tailored to outlive and merge into its forbidding terrain by concealing itself cleverly amongst craggy rocks and deep gorges. It rests on tall ridges at altitudes of as much as 9,000 ft to get the perfect views for looking, mendacity low and quiet in crevices at its strategic lookouts. When the time is true, the surefooted cat strikes at prey like ibex, urial and bharal, charging at excessive speeds, its lengthy, bushy tail offering additional steadiness on the steep slopes and its highly effective hind legs enabling it to leap a number of instances its physique size. Anybody who has seen video of a snow leopard operating after its prey is aware of that they simply go for it, audaciously and boldly flinging themselves into what appear to be not possible conditions, then effortlessly escaping, prey in mouth. 

A snow leopard in India up in the rocks.

© Surya Ramachandran

As the highest predator on this ecosystem, Uncia uncia retains numerous different animal and plant populations in steadiness, as they prey on grazers. Their weight-reduction plan finally advantages our shared planet by serving to the biggest freshwater reservoirs flourish and keep clear. Snow leopards are discovered within the excessive mountain ranges of Central Asia, together with the Himalayas, in addition to Bhutan, Nepal and Siberia. On our Land of the Snow Leopard journey, we discover the heights of Ladakh, a former Silk Street kingdom in northern India, for the prospect to identify these cats within the wild. 


The time period “King of the Jungle” may lead some to consider that the male lion is the highest hunter, however “Queen of the Jungle” is extra prefer it. Lionesses are the first hunters in a lion pack, as their smaller dimension hides them higher as they stalk their prey via savanna grass and allows them to be 30% quicker than their male counterparts. With comparatively small hearts and lungs, lions usually are not inherently quick runners, which is why they like to stalk first; they’ll attain a most pace of round 35 miles per hour, however they’ll solely sustain this tempo for round 300–500 ft. Moreover, lionesses hunt collectively cooperatively in packs, rising their probabilities of capturing prey efficiently. As soon as the lioness sneaks up on her prey, she makes use of her highly effective claws to maul and crush its neck, leaving it paralyzed to be taken again to the lion’s dwelling for dinner.

Male lions additionally hunt typically, however after they do, it’s rather more easy. They go for the massive prey and nook it strategically, relying on their weight, brute power and iconic bravery. Prey differ by location, however embrace elephants, buffalo, giraffes, gazelles, impalas, warthogs and wildebeests. If bigger prey isn’t out there, lions will eat birds, rodents, fish, ostrich eggs, amphibians and reptiles, in addition to scavenge.

A lioness sitting on grass in Tanzania.

© Paul Joynson-Hicks

The African lion (Panthera leo) as soon as inhabited elements of Europe, southwest Asia and north Africa, however they’ve disappeared from 94% of their historic vary and now dwell primarily in Sub-Saharan Africa, except for a small group of Asiatic lions that dwell in India’s Gir Forest. Need the prospect to see an African lion within the wild? Be part of us on our Final East Africa Safari

Golden Eagle

There’s a motive Mongolians have hunted with golden eagles for hundreds of years. Along with the assumption that it’s a extra moral manner of looking, these birds are constructed for killing. They’ll even take down a Mongolian wolf! Greater and extra aggressive than bald eagles, golden eagles can carry as much as eight kilos throughout flight and might fly as much as 80 miles per hour, with a median pace of 28–32 miles per hour. On a targeted dive, golden eagles have been recognized to succeed in 200 miles per hour! They usually work in pairs whereas looking: One eagle drives the prey to its ready accomplice. Their favourite prey contains different birds, marmots, hares, mice, martens, foxes and even deer. When golden eagles assault, they often swoop down with their ft prolonged and talons out. Three entrance talons face ahead and the again talon, referred to as the hallux, is available in behind. They hit with one foot across the again of their sufferer’s head or neck and the opposite foot at its shoulder, with highly effective penetration that may even enter the shoulder blade of a caribou calf. 

Portrait of a Golden Eagle (Aquila chrysaetos)

These majestic birds vary from Mexico via a lot of western North America as far north as Alaska. They will also be present in Asia, northern Africa and Europe. Golden eagles escaped the extinction suffered by different species in Switzerland on the flip of the twentieth century, however simply barely. We frequently spot them within the Alps on our Wild Switzerland journey. 

Though apex predators usually are not hunted and killed by different animals, they aren’t protected from people. Lots of the world’s prime predators are both endangered or have had their populations drop drastically through the years attributable to people killing them to guard livestock or different folks, looking them for meals or encroaching on their environments, leading to habitat loss. Accountable ecotourism is a method to assist present the native communities the place they dwell that these animals not solely are a vital a part of the ecosystem, however they’re additionally creatures which can be revered by nature lovers from all world wide.

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