Lion: Panthera leo

One of the iconic animals of Africa. Males are larger than females with manes ranging in colour from light to black.

Characteristics

Distribution
Once widely occurring in Africa the lion now occurs in national parks and reserves south of the Sahara. A small population is still found in western India.

Social structure
Lions are the most sociable of the large cats of Africa, living in prides made up of females, cubs and juvenile males. The size of the pride and the area of the home ranges (territories) depend on the availability of food and the terrain.

Female cubs will generally stay with the pride whereas the male cubs will be pushed away form the pride upon reaching sexual maturity. The males will then become nomadic, sometimes forming coalitions, until they challenge for territories of their own.

Range Differentiation
Colour shades and behaviour vary a great deal across its range. In respect to hunting, prides in certain areas have adapted to hunting a specific prey.

Habitat
Lions inhabit a wide range of habitat from desert areas to open savanna. They are, however, absent from deep forests. Water is not essential for their survival.

Feeding
A lion’s diet varies greatly, and these predators have been observed feeding on everything from termites to elephants. Generally throughout Africa antelope, zebra and buffalo make up the largest part of lions’ diets.

A common fallacy is the belief that lions are great hunters. This species success ratio per hunt is one of the lowest of all predators. Some studies have shown that their success rate is as low as 20%. In my personal observations (which cannot necessarily be taken as scientific) I have found the success rate to be less than ten percent.

Breeding
Cubs are born throughout the year after a gestation period of about a 3-and-a-half months. Up to six cubs per litter have been recorded. When new males take over a pride they will kill all the young cubs in order to bring the females into estrus faster. The males do this in order to foster their own kin.

Interesting Facts

African lions sleeping in the shade
The view many visitors have of lions is of them sleeping in the shade.
Two young African lions playing

Play is an important part of growing up as it teaches skills necessary for adulthood.
Male African lion chasing away lion cubs

When a male takes over a pride from another pride he will often kill the cubs of the old male.

Male and female African lion

A male will follow a female in oestrus, scenting her at intervals to test for readiness.