Category Archives: The Lion

The African lion.

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The lion (Panthera leo) is one of the four big cats in the genus Panthera and a member of the family Felidae. With some males exceeding 250 kg (550 lb) in weight,. it is the second-largest living cat after the tiger. Wild lions currently exist in sub-Saharan Africa and in Asia (where an endangered remnant population resides in Gir Forest National Park in India) while other types of lions have disappeared from North Africa and Southwest Asia in historic times. Until the late Pleistocene, about 10,000 years ago, the lion was the most widespread large land mammal after humans. (Read more)

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Lions are the only cats that live in groups, which are called prides. Prides are family units that may include up to three males, a dozen or so females, and their young. All of a pride’s lionesses are related, and female cubs typically stay with the group as they age. Young males eventually leave and establish their own prides by taking over a group headed by another male.

Only male lions boast manes, the impressive fringe of long hair that encircles their heads. Males defend the pride’s territory, which may include some 100 square miles (259 square kilometers) of grasslands, scrub, or open woodlands. These intimidating animals mark the area with urine, roar menacingly to warn intruders, and chase off animals that encroach on their turf.

Female lions are the pride’s primary hunters. They often work together to prey upon antelopes, zebras, wildebeest, and other large animals of the open grasslands. Many of these animals are faster than lions, so teamwork pays off.

After the hunt, the group effort often degenerates to squabbling over the sharing of the kill, with cubs at the bottom of the pecking order. Young lions do not help to hunt until they are about a year old. Lions will hunt alone if the opportunity presents itself, and they also steal kills from hyenas or wild dogs.

Conservation Status

Lions once roamed most of Africa and into parts of Asia and Europe. Now around 20,000-30,000 of these big cats live in sub-Saharan Africa, mostly in protected reserves. A small population of 200-260 inhabit India’s Gir Forest. African lions are considered vulnerable of extinction by the IUCN Red List while the Asian lion population is considered endangered.

Lion Distribution

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Lions inhabit the grasslands, shrub, and open woodlands of sub-Saharan Africa. A small population also lives in India’s Gir Forest.

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The long fight to save wild beauty represents democracy at its best. It requires citizens to practice the hardest of virtues and self-restraint. ~ Edwin Way Teale