Only males have a long tawny mane on the sides of the face and on top of the head. In some individuals, this mane can become almost black.
Lions prey mainly on large animals such as Zebra, Wildebeest, Buffalo, Gemsbok, and even Giraffe. Smaller prey like Impala, Steenbok and even Porcupine are taken when the opportunity arises. The task of hunting is often left to the lionesses of the pride, which hunt as a team.
Lions are non-seasonal breeders, yet females of a pride often synchronize births. After a gestation period of 110 days, one to four cubs is born. Cubs start taking meat after ten weeks. Females suckle their own and one another’s cubs for up to six months. After birth, cubs are hidden for six weeks after which mothers bring them to the pride’s crèche. The young remain dependant on the organizational success of the pride for up to three years.
Prides consist of two to 12 related females and their young, and dominant males. Such males may form coalitions of two to six, and collectively hold tenure over prides. The roar of the Lion is an impressive sound and is perhaps the sound most associated with the African wild.
Apart from roaring, Lions also communicate by scent-marking their surroundings, and even by their facial expressions and body postures. Lions display their aggression by showing their impressive canine teeth. Retracting their ears and displaying the dark patch behind the ears, their tails twitching in irritation.
Sub-Saharan Africa is the last refuge of these supreme animals and South Africa offers some of the best opportunities to view lions in their natural habitat.
Lions are the second largest members of the feline family in the world. Lion are tan in colour and have a slightly white under-body, with a tuft of black hair at the end of their tails.
Did you know?
Male lions are the only members of the feline family which boast a mane.
Most cat species live a fundamentally solitary existence, but the lion is an exception. It has developed a social system based on teamwork and a division of labour within the pride. An extended but closed family unit centres around a group of related females. The average pride consists of about 15 individuals, including five to 10 females with their young and two or three territorial males that are usually brothers or pride mates.
Lion stand 48 inches high at the shoulder.
Adult male lion weigh about 416 pounds.
Female lions weigh 277 pounds.
Male lions are typically 4 feet in height with a large mane of hair that begins to develop around age two that surrounds the neck. The mane can vary in colour from tawny/tan to black.
Female lions are 44 inches in height and have no mane around their neck. Cubs are born with a slightly spotted coat, that changes to their parent’s tawny coloration around three months of age. Female lions live longer than males, and Serengeti female lions can live up to age 18, whereas males typically live to age 12.
Lions are found in savannahs, grasslands, dense bush and woodlands.
Lions occur naturally in the Kruger National Park and the game reserves and parks surrounding it, as well as in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in the Kalahari, and in Hluhluwe–Imfolozi Park in KwaZulu-Natal.
But, they can be found in protected private and provincial reserves all over the country. These include Addo National Elephant Park in the Eastern Cape, Sanbona Wildlife Reserve and Aquila Private Game Reserve (which are both near Cape Town in the Western Cape).
Lions are opportunists when it comes to feeding. They will scavenge from other predators that have killed an animal, or will hunt animals ranging in size from the large African buffalo to a small hare.
Lions are the only ‘social’ cats, whereby related female lions live together and form groups called ‘prides’. Lion prides are family groups with all of the females related, mothers and daughters, sisters and cousins, etc.
Did you know?
Lions have a matriarchal society – females hunt and feed the pride, and take care of the young; males protect the pride from would-be predators.
A pride can range from three to 30 individuals but tend to average about fifteen members. This includes male and female lions plus a number of cubs. The number of lions in a pride will vary significantly based on the number of prey animals that live or migrate through the pride’s territory.
Lion cubs are born after a gestation period of 110 days, with female lions giving birth in a den site, typically located in a rock outcrop or in dense vegetation. A female will on average give birth to three cubs that are between 2 to 4 pounds in weight.
Want to see lion in their natural habitat? In South Africa, find lion in these reserves and parks…
The lion (Panthera leo) is classified as one of the five big cats in the genus Panthera which includes the Tiger, Lion, Jaguar, Leopard and Snow Leopard. Only members of this genus are able to roar. With some males in excess of 250kg, it is the second largest cat in the world (tiger being largest), and the largest cat in Africa.
Lion populations are now no longer able to exist outside designated reserves and national parks. Although the cause of the decline is not fully understood, habitat loss and conflicts with humans are currently the greatest causes of concern.
Common Name: Lion
Scientific Name: Panthera leo
Phylum: Chordata (Vertebrata)
Afrikaans: Leeu Xhosa: Ngonyama, Shumba
Most lions now live in eastern and southern Africa, and their numbers there are rapidly decreasing, with an estimated 30–50% decline per 20 years in the late half of the twentieth century.
The remaining populations are often geographically isolated from one another, which can lead to genetic bottlenecking and in-breeding, similar to issues facing cheetahs today.
The lion population in the region of West Africa is isolated from lion populations of Central Africa, with little or no exchange of breeding individuals. The number of mature individuals in West Africa is estimated by two separate recent surveys at 850–1,160 (2002/2004).
There is disagreement over the size of the largest individual population in West Africa: the estimates range from 100 to 400 lions in Burkina Faso’s Arly-Singou eco-system. Another population in northwestern Africa is found in Waza National Park where approximately 14–21 animals persist.
The white lion is not a separate subspecies but rather caused by a recessive gene. Big, dark manes on male lions are an indication of health and vigor and these males are favoured by females. White lions do occur naturally in the wild but they are rare.
Lions spend much of their time resting and are inactive for about 20 hours per day. Although lions can be active at any time, their activity generally peaks after dusk with a period of socialising, grooming, and defecating.
Intermittent bursts of activity follow through the night hours until dawn, when hunting most often takes place. They spend an average of two hours a day walking and 50 minutes of eating.
The size of adult lions varies across their range with those from the southern African populations in Zimbabwe, the Kalahari and Kruger Park averaging around 189.6 kg and 126.9 kg in males and females respectively compared to 174.9 kg and 119.5 kg of male and female lions from East Africa.
Body measurements in males are head-body lengths ranging from 170 to 250 cm, tail lengths of 90–105 cm. In females reported head-body lengths range from 140 to 175 cm, tail lengths of 70–100 cm.
Lions are the only members of the cat family to display obvious sexual dimorphism – that is, males and females look distinctly different. They also have specialised roles that each gender plays in the pride. For instance, the lioness, the hunter, lacks the male’s thick mane.
The colour of the male’s mane varies from blond to black, generally becoming darker as the lion grows older. The most distinctive characteristic shared by both females and males is that the tail ends in a hairy tuft.
In some lions, the tuft conceals a hard “spine” or “spur”, approximately 5 mm long, formed of the final sections of tail bone fused together. The lion is the only felid to have a tufted tail – the function of the tuft and spine are unknown.
Absent at birth, the tuft develops around 5 1⁄2 months of age and is readily identifiable at 7 months.
Most lionesses will have reproduced by the time they are four years of age. Lions do not mate at any specific time of year, and the females come into heat several times a year.
A lioness may mate with more than one male when she is in estrous. The average gestation period is around 110 days, the female giving birth to a litter of one to four cubs in a secluded den. She will often hunt by herself while the cubs are still helpless, staying relatively close to the thicket or den where the cubs are kept.
Usually, the mother does not integrate herself and her cubs back into the pride until the cubs are six to eight weeks old. Lionesses in a pride often synchronise their reproductive cycles so that they cooperate in the raising and suckling of the young. Once the cubs are past the initial stage of isolation with their mother who suckle indiscriminately from any or all of the nursing females in the pride.
In addition to greater protection, the synchronization of births also has an advantage in that the cubs end up being roughly the same size, and thus have an equal chance of survival. In addition to starvation, cubs also face many other dangers, such as predation by jackals, hyenas, leopards, martial eagles, and snakes.
Furthermore, when one or more new males oust the previous male(s) associated with a pride, the conqueror(s) often kill any existing young cubs, perhaps because females do not become fertile and receptive until their cubs mature or die. All in all, as many as 80% of the cubs will die before the age of two.
Lions are the most socially inclined of all wild felids, most of which remain quite solitary in nature. The lion is a predatory carnivore with two types of social organization. Some lions are residents, living in groups of related lionesses, their mates, and offspring. Such a group is called a pride.
Females form the stable social unit in a pride and do not tolerate outside females. Membership only changes with the births and deaths of lionesses, although some females do leave and become nomadic.
Although extremely large prides, consisting of up to 30 individuals, have been observed, the average pride consists of five or six females, their cubs of both sexes, and one or two males (known as a coalition if more than one) who mate with the adult females.
The most common peaceful communications whilst lions are resting are head rubbing and social licking which has been compared to grooming in primates. Nuzzling one’s forehead, face and neck against another lion – appears to be a form of greeting.
Lions tend to roar in a very characteristic manner, starting with a few deep, long roars that trail off into a series of shorter ones. They most often roar at night; the sound, which can be heard from a distance of 8 kilometres, is used to advertise the animal’s presence. Lions have the loudest roar of any big cat.
Lions prefer to scavenge when the opportunity presents itself with carrion providing more than 50% of their diet. They scavenge animals either dead from natural causes (disease) or killed by other predators, and keep a constant lookout for circling vultures, being keenly aware that they indicate an animal dead or in distress.
Lionesses do most of the hunting for the pride. The male lion associated with the pride usually stays and watches over young cubs until the lionesses return from the hunt. Typically, several work together and encircle the herd from different points.
Once they have closed in on the herd, they usually target the animal closest to them. The attack is short and powerful; they attempt to catch the victim with a fast rush and final leap. The prey usually is killed by strangulation. Print lion roaring
The prey consists mainly of medium-sized mammals, with a preference for wildebeest, zebras, buffalo, and warthogs. Occasionally, they take relatively small species such as Thomson’s gazelle or springbok.
The lion has been classified as a Vulnerable Species by the IUCN because of the significant decline in the wild population. In South Africa, the lion no longer occurs outside national parks and game reserves.
The principle threat to lions in the wild is habitat loss and conflicts with humans, however, in more recent years, the increase in predator sport hunting and trophy hunting has highlighted many unacceptable practices that have developed with the breeding of lions in captivity to provide a constant supply to the hunting industry.
Limited edition Print of a lion roaring.
They found that recent lion lineages began to diverge in the Late Pleistocene, and that the modern lion populations last shared a most recent common ancestor around 124,000 years ago. Read More
Lions are opportunist hunters, and, after a careful stalk, will take the closest animal regardless of its age, sex or condition: they do not test their potential prey for weaknesses, like other predators such as wild dogs do.
Lions are opportunistic hunters (same as Nile Crocodiles) after stalking they will take any animal that is the closest regardless of age, sex or physical condition. They will not test their prey for weaknesses such as Wild Dogs.
Requiring large amount of calories Lions typically consume 10 to 25 pounds of meat daily ( 4.5 kg to 11 kg ).
Female’s do most of the hunting, usually several females will hunt together working as a team.
The African Lion is arguably amongst the top wanted animals on most safari-goers’ wish lists to view in the wild. It’s bold, confident and one of the world’s most iconic cat species. But what do we know about Lions and the cat family as a whole?
Despite most wild cats having a modest size today, all cat species derive from much larger sabre-tooth ancestors. Progressively declining in size is a major characteristic of the modern cat radiation, ranging from Lions of over 270 kg, to little Sand Cats of not more than 1 kg.
All cats are built on a similar body plan with a long body, rounded head with large canine teeth. All have good bifocal vision, acute hearing and expressive faces. Found worldwide, cats are almost exclusively meat eaters at the top of their respective food chains.
Their presence or absence is, therefore, a good indicator of the ecological health of an area.
Lions are the largest of the African cat species, also known as a “Leeu” in Afrikaans, ïBubhesi” in Zulu or “Lowe” in German. Lions range in color from nearly white to ochre-brown, but tawny yellow is the most common color. Their faces have subtle tints and markings around the eyes, mouth and ears that enhance facial expressions.
Males develop thick, woolly manes that vary in color from brown to black. Leopard like rosettes is a characteristic of young cats but this tends to fade away with age. Both sexes roar, but males more loudly than females and on a still night it can carry for as far as 8 km. Roaring advertises presence, position and possibly status and identity.
Lions were once found all over Africa, but it is estimated that today they only occupy 9% of their original home range on this continent. Now they are only found in a patchy distribution in reserves and national parks with a continuing decline in numbers.
Once extended through the Middle East to Arabia, Persia and India. They occupy most vegetation types except for extensive forests and the driest desert areas.
Lions feed on a variety of prey animals ranging from 50 to 1000 kg. Smaller animals are killed and eaten by individual animals and larger ones are killed and eaten by groups. Most prey is caught after a skilled stalk, taking advantage of various types of cover, and a fast run or charge.
Some areas larger proportion of prey is caught by females but males are very competent killers contrary to popular beliefs. Larger animals are usually strangled and smaller prey is bitten deeply in the head, neck or chest.
Lion social groups commonly called prides, typically contain between 2-20 individuals, mostly adult females with their offspring varying in ages, and between 1-6 adult males working as a coalition.
Individuals or groups often spend time apart within their own territory but a kill, bouts of roaring or more subtle signals often reunite dispersed pride members. Reunions are usually marked by much rubbing, leaning, purring, licking or other signs of appeasement.
Pride females form persistent bonds and involve vigorous allied defense of their territory against intruding females. Males form similar associations but their membership of a pride is more transitory and seldom lasts more than 3-4 years.
Frequent challenges from nomadic groups ensure that Lions enjoy a short prime when aged between 5-10 years old and a very short life after that. Females are longer lived and more numerous and provide continuity to a pride. Nomadic Lions tend to wander widely and provide the means of recolonizing empty territories.
It is common that females within the pride will enter oestrus simultaneously, resulting in a large number of similarly aged cubs. Females will suckle each other’s young but weaklings or stragglers are left to their own devices and thus the mortality among cubs is very high. Lion cub deaths also occur from newly arrived males taking over a pride.
Because females reject strangers with great ferocity, the mane, as an imposing ‘enlargement’ of a males head and shoulders probably serves to both impress and intimidate females of resident prides. It possibly also serves to protect the head and neck in violent interactions with competing males.
A Lion in his prime at around 6 years old has an impressive and luxuriant mane that comes into prominence during the ‘strut’, an artificial tip-toeing gait directed at females and subordinate males, but intimidation is most effective when males gang up against others.
Because Lions could only evolve prides where there were space and the herds of large animals to support them, Lions are an appropriate symbol for conservation in Africa. Their presence is also an indicator of a self-sustaining community of large grazers.
With wild herds of large grazers progressively being replaced with domesticated ones, Lions are being eliminated. This was achieved in North and South Africa 100 years ago. The tsetse fly belt, a vast area once closed off to livestock due to parasitic infection and subsequent deaths of livestock once acted as a refuge for wild game and Lions outside of national parks.
New prophylaxes and extensive pesticide treatments of these regions to remove tsetse flies have now opened them up to livestock and thus has produced a rapid decline of Lions on an epic scale with an overall outcome that hardly be in doubt. Lions of the future will only see survival in large national parks and reserves.
This King of the Jungle gets some serious Shuteye. Male Lions Sleep on average 20 Hours a Day. While the Female Lions get 15 to 18 Hours shuteye a Day on average.
After a large Meal, Lions may spend upto 24 Hours sleeping.
As Lions are nocturnal most of the sleeping is done during the day.
This is not always the case and may vary from area to area. For instance Lions in Zoo’s sleep up to 15 Hours a Day.
Their are numerous physical and varying differences between Male & Female Lions.
This is not a behavior often captured on film however our rangers were lucky to have been in the right place while out on safari.
When it comes to Lions Mating did you know that Leopards have almost exactly the same rituals? Mating may occur every 15 minutes for up to 5 days. This equates to 250 times over a period of 5 days. Yes, there is a very good reason for this excessiveness.
The human female will produce an egg every 28 days if this egg is not fertilized both the egg and the lining of the uterus will be rejected. This is not the case with these cats and therefore they need a stimulus to start ovulation.
Mating is a right, and it is most often the right of the dominant male lion. The dominant male will be the strongest thus ensuring the strongest genetic traits for their offspring. The dominant female will also have primary mating rights.
However, the male lion may mate with any female in the pride. When the female is in season or on heat she will demonstrate various traits, one is rubbing her head and rolling onto her back. Copulation is really quite quick lasting less than a minute. The act is repeated as often as possible. Despite the staggering amount of attempts, mating is mostly unsuccessful.
Gestation lasts for 3 and a half months. litters range from 3 to 6 cubs. Cubs take a full 2 years to reach maturity. Therefore females only give birth every 2 to 3 years.
Sadly only 1 in 4 cubs will survive adulthood. Once the cubs reach adulthood they will be banished from the pride to form their own prides. Male siblings will eventually attempt to challenge the dominant male, this will prevent too much inbreeding within the pride.
A somewhat unusual activity witnessing Lions in trees has fast become a top sighting during the summer months in the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park, South Africa. It remains uncertain as to the real reason for Lions climbing into the trees however it is assumed that these Lions may have realized various advantages of being in the trees.
As Summer temperatures sore it may be deduced that the higher one climbs the cooler it is. Or it could include escaping pesky bites from tsetse flies, sought after shade or merely to get a bird’s eye view of what’s going on.
Whatever the true reason or need to climb into the trees this sighting remains a wonderful experience.
Lion’s consume a wide variety of wildlife (prey). Birds, Reptiles, Wildebeest, Impala, Giraffe, Buffalo, Hippo, Warthogs and even try to hunt Elephants however this mostly only occurs during times of drought when food is scarce.
It is estimated that Lions may eat between 4.5 kg to 11 kg of food per day. Lions may go without eating for a maximum of 14 days and remarkably up to 4 days without water.
Adult Lion can eat up to 43 kg of meat a day while the Female Lion may eat up to 25 kg of meat in a single day.
Eating Order, yip believe it or not the females will be the primary hunters however if the males are present then the males will eat first followed by the cubs and then only will the females be allowed to eat what’s left over.