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African Lion

Range:

Central and Southern Africa


Habitat:

Savannahs, lightly wooded country, bush, and open plains.


Characteristics:

The male is larger than the female and has a massive head and usually a mane that is fully grown at 4-5 years of age. Both male and female have a very long tail which, unique in the cat family, ends in a prominent tuft of hair. The coat varies from pale yellowish to grey to dark brown. Adults may be slightly mottled; the young are spotted. Male lions weigh between 330 and 550 lbs., while female lions weigh from 265 to 395 lbs, with a head to body length of 4.6 to 6.3 feet and a tail length around three feet. The lion coat is light tawny yellow or buff with a white abdomen. The male has a mane that varies in color from light tawny to dark brown to black and is protection during a fight. Its color provides excellent camouflage in grassy plains and scrub country.


Behavior:

Lions do not normally climb trees, but lionesses and young may jump into low branches to sun themselves or to reach a cached kill. The lion is the only big cat which is typically gregarious in habit. Within this group there are reproductive, hierarchical, and social relationships. Females tend to form the stable population of the pride with the males drifting off by themselves or with other males from time to time. The males have the task of defending the pride from other males and defining the territory belonging to the pride. Females are responsible for hunting and care of the young. Prides may consist of 4-5 individuals, up to 30. Lions are diurnal and nocturnal, and most hunting occurs at night. The usual method of killing is to leap at the prey and break the neck with the front paws. A rigid hierarchical pattern follows, with the males eating first, then the females, and lastly the young. Prides do not usually kill daily, but every 2-3 days. After a large meal, a pride may spend as many as 20 hours a day resting. Lions are capable of bursts of speed of 40mph. They may also make standing jumps of up to 12 feet and leaps of up to 30 feet.


Reproduction:

Females usually become pregnant in the spring, but may come into estrus at any time during the year. After a gestation of 100-112 days, 3-4 cubs are born. The female normally leaves the pride for the birth of her cubs, and may occasionally be accompanied by another female. The young are generally weaned at 8-10 weeks and stay with their mother up to 18 months. The pride, including adult males, are tolerant of the cubs. The cubs become sexually mature at 3-4 years.


Interesting Facts:

Lions were once common throughout Europe and Asia with the last European lion disappearing between 80-100 A.D. A census taken in 1990 gave 221 individuals living under government protection in the Gir Forest in India, and approximately 30-40 living outside the park.


African Lion Click to View Bigger Picture

Conservation:

The lion is not classified, but its population is rapidly declining due to loss of habitat, hunting and poisoning by agriculture and livestock interests. By the end of this century, lions will probably exist only in parks and preserves.


Did YOU Know?
Lions have 9 distinct vocalizations; the roar can be heard at a distance of 5 miles and is usually heard at sundown, after a kill and after eating. The remaining sounds have not been interpreted, but appear to having meaning within the pride.

African Lion
Range
Class: mammal
Order: Carnivora
Family: Felidae
Genus: Panthera
Species: leo
Length: 6 feet in length with a tail 3-4 feet long
Height: 40-45 inches at the shoulder
Weight: The male may weigh up to 500 pounds, the female up to 350 pounds.
Length: 6 feet in length with a tail 3-4 feet long
Average Lifespan: 10
Wild Diet: Mostly hoofed animals; gnus, waterbuck, zebras, buffalo, young giraffes and hippos, ostriches, as well as lesser game
Zoo Diet: Whole ground meat diet specially designed for felines.
Predators: Man kills for pelt, also encroachment into lion's habitat
This is an ssp animal
USFWS Status: Not Listed
CITES Status: Appendix II
Where at the Zoo? Savanna


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