Lion

Category: Wildlife

Lions are found in savannas, forests, mountains, deserts and rainforests. African lions are found in sub-Saharan Africa, while Asiatic lions live in the Gir forest in northwestern India. African lions feed mainly on gazelles, impalas and wildebeests, while lions in general will also eat birds, reptiles and rodents when larger prey is scarce or hard to capture. African lions have an average life span of 15 years in the wild, while Asian lions live to be roughly 17 or 18 years old in the wild.

Male Lion

Male Lion

Lioness with Cub

Lioness with Cub

Lioness

Lioness

Lion Cub

Lion Cub

Scientific & Common Names

Kingdom - Animalia

Phylum - Chordata

Class - Mammalia

Order - Carnivora

Family - Felidae

Genus - Panthera

Species - P. leo

Common Name - Lion, African Lion, Asiatic or Indian Lion (P. leo persica)

Characteristics

Lions have tawny coats, a black tuft on the tips of their tails, and large paws. Males have long manes that range from blond to black. Adult African lions weigh between 265 and 420 pounds and measure between 4.5 and 6.5 feet in body length. Asiatic lions are smaller than African lions and have thicker tufts and shorter manes.

Breeding

Lions do not have a specific breeding season, but there is a breeding peak that occurs during the rainy season. Lionesses have an average gestation period of 3.5 months and give birth to one to six cubs. The mother hides the cubs for the first eight weeks to protect them from rival males. Females in a group of lions, or pride, help care for each other’s cubs, while the males guard the pride from other males.

Behavior

Lions live in prides that consist of a few males, several related females, and their cubs. Pride sizes range from two to 40 lions. Females do most of the hunting and do not compete with each other for dominance within the pride. They work together to bring down prey, which the pride members then share. Lions communicate through visual cues, roaring and other vocalizations, and spraying.

History

Lions once had a more widespread range that included large parts of Africa, Asia and even Europe. They are no longer found in several countries, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iraq and Israel.

Present Status

Lions have a status of vulnerable, although the Asiatic lion subspecies is listed as endangered. There are roughly 350 Asiatic lions in the wild, and their numbers are in danger of decreasing due to poaching. The main threats African lions face are hunting and habitat loss. Conservation efforts include managing protected areas and establishing a second population of Asiatic lions.