- African Lions
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moved. Male lions can grow up to 9' in length. Another characteristic
of lions is that not only are adult males considerably larger than
males 415 lbs., females 277 lbs.), they possess manes.
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The male's chief
role in the pride is to defend territory and the females from other males.
Size is obviously an advantage, but increased size requires more food.
The bulky mane gives the appearance of greater size without increased weight.
The mane also provides protection from the claws and teeth of other males.
Habits: Lions are the most social of the cat family. They live
in prides consisting of one or two males, up to seven females
and 14 or 15 cubs of different ages. Prides occupy territories
that they defend against nomadic lions and other prides;
this is done by the dominant male or males, by means of patrolling
and scent marking.
At about 3 years of age, young lions are evicted from their
pride; they normally stay together, always on the move, becoming
nomads, until they take over some other pride, whose male
as become too weak or old, sometimes killing all the existing
The female normally does all the hunting, usually at night, late afternoon
or early morning. At a kill, the adults will eat first, with the male
sometimes claiming it for himself, and, if anything left, the cubs
will then take their turn. In times of scarcity this means very little
food available for the cubs, and death by starvation.
Scavengers, like vultures, hyenas and jackals, are attracted to lion kills in
great numbers, and in some occasions a big group of hyenas will appropriate the
kill of a small group of lions. The contrary also happens, with lions very often
steeling from hyenas and jackals, and even climbing up a tree to appropriate
a leopard's kill.
Adult males can weight up to 250 Kg and females about 150 Kg. Their lifespan
is about 15 years.
Range & Habitat: Thousands of years ago, lions were common throughout southern
Europe, southern Asia, eastern and central India and over the whole of the African
continent. Today, with the exception of some 300 highly protected animals in
the Gir National Park of India, the only naturally-occuring lions are found in
Africa. (But even in Africa lions have been wiped out in the north; the last
Numidian male was shot as a trophy in the 1930s.) Lions do not live in heavy
forests and jungles and they do not inhabit desert areas due to a scarcity of
Reproduction and Rearing: Breeding occurs all year round, with
2 to 6 cubs being born after a gestation period of about 110
days. The lioness normally leaves the pride to give birth to
her litter, in a sheltered spot where she leaves them, while
hunting. At this stage the cubs are very vulnerable, sometimes
being taken away by scavengers, like hyenas, while their mother
If, at any stage doubtful about her cubs safety, the lioness will find another
hide, and will transport them, on her mouth, one by one, to the new location.
Once the cubs are big enough to follow their mother, she will take them to
the pride and introduce them to their father. This is another crucial time
in the cubs life, as nobody can predict the reaction of the male.
Diet: Lion's prey include mostly wildebeest, zebra, waterbuck, kudu, giraffe
They also tend to attack young elephant calves. In difficult times they will
even go for small prey, like porcupine, with disastrous consequences for both.
Status:As a result of widespread persecution, cats in the wild
have become one of the most threataened major groups of land
animals. Nevertheless, the African lion numbered perhaps 200,000
individuals in 1991. They are generally protected even through
some 150 humans have been mauled in the Gir National Park alone.
Conversely in the Skeleton Coast Park in West Africa's Namibia
the lions are all gone. Some were killed outside park boundaries
by livestock herdsmen; others were forced to leave by drought.