Lions: Big Cats
“An army of sheep led by a lion can defeat an army of lions led by a sheep.” –African Proverb
The Lions are the magnificent, courageous, powerful and ferocious animals in the world. Lions are also known as “King of jungle” and “Big Cats”. African lions are one of the largest among the all the types of lions In size they are second to the Siberian Tiger.
Lions are the largest cats; however, they are unique and differ from other members of Felines family. The biggest difference is that lions are incredible social animals. Lions live in a group of 15 or more, known as pride.
The lions belong to the Panthera genus and family Felidae. There is a group of seven extant lion subspecies inhabiting the African continent. Currently, there are two types of Lions:
- African Lions
- Asiatic Lions
Types of Lions
West African Lion
Southwest African Lion
Where do African Lions Live
In ancient times, lions were more widespread than they are today. In historic times they were found in almost every region. Presently, lions are found in sub-Saharan Africa. However, Asiatic Lions in small number (estimated 300) inhabit a remote part of the Gir Forest in India.
African lions live in the central part of the continent stretching from the southern Sahara Desert and the northern regions of South Africa. The habitats of African lions ranging from open grasslands to dry forests. Lions are not found in dense tropical forests.
How long do Lions Live: African Lions
The reported average lifespan of an Asiatic and African lions is about 15-18 years. However when they are in Zoo or in captivity, they can live up to 25-30 years.
The Lion’s Population: Pride
As described earlier, big cats live in pride. A pride comprises of a dozen of females, few young cubs and 3 to 4 male lions. Male lions guard an area of around 100m2. They marked the area with urine and warn the intruders by roaring. No doubt male lions effectively defend their pride however they are in constant threat from the other male lions who try to take over the control of pride. In a case, if they are successful in their mission, they kill the young cubs that were sired by the previous male lion.
Life Style of Lions
A lion spend most of his life while sleeping, napping and resting. In the duration of 24 hours, lions have a short burst of intense activity. The Lions laying around in crazy poses, as on their backs with feet in the air or legs spread apart. Lions often rest on trees as they are good climbers. Perhaps they rest on trees to get cool breeze or to stay away from flies.
Two to three years both male and female lions are able to reproduce. However, they breed after firmly establishing the pride. After the four months of gestation period, females give birth to one-six cubs. Cubs are born blind and vulnerable to their surroundings. The fur of lion cubs is usually covered in dark spots. These dark spots help them to hide in their warren and protect them when the mother gone for hunt.
Miserably, less than half of the cubs survive by the time they are one. Four out of five cubs died either from other animal attacks or starvation by the time they are two. However, female lions protect the cubs and take good care of them. Lion cubs take only milk for six months and start to eat meat after 12 weeks although they do not hunt until they are about one year old.
Diet of Lions: Prey
In the previous article, we discuss that lions are carnivorous animals. Their diet is mainly consists of meat. To satisfy their hunger, lions prey other larger and smaller animals. Larger animals include Buffalo, Wildebeest, Zebra, Warthog, Gazelle, and Giraffe etc. Smaller animals that lions eat are deer, birds, hares, turtles, lizards and mice.
Despite their larger size, male lions are slower and easily seen than their females. Therefore, male lions hardly do any hunting. The Lionesses in the pride mostly hunt. Female lions can easily catch and kill the animals that are faster and bigger than them.
Once the animal has been caught, Lionesses allow the male lion to eat 1st before papering themselves. Cubs are usually at the bottom of the pile and gratified with what remains.
Lion’s Predators and Threats
In the world, big cats are the dominant predators. It means that other animals pose no or little threats to lions except Hyena. The major threat to lions by other species includes Elephants and Giraffes. They can badly injure the lion during fight to warn it off.
The bigger threat to lions is the human beings. Humans not only kill them out of fear but also increasing human settlement and clearing lands for other purposes like agriculture has severely reduces the lion’s number. Lion population have also affected by the diseases like canine distemper. More than 1,000 lions died between 1993 to 1997 due to this disease.
Lion Conservation Status
The Lion is as an animal that is vulnerable from extinction in its natural environment in near future according to IUCN. In the past twenty years, 30% of lion population has been lost from sub-Saharan Africa. Now the estimated number is ranging 16,500 to 30,000. The main reason behind the rapid demise of African lions is due to the habitat lose.
Interesting Facts About Lions
- The reported oldest recorded lifespan of lion is 29 years.
- A lion’s roar can be heard up to 3 miles.
- A female lion can run at a speed of 33 miles per hour.
- There is more information about lions than any other cat of the Felidae family.
- In a single meal a lion can eat up to 63 kilograms of food.
- Lions use their roar as a form of communication.
- A female lion stifles her prey by clumping jaws over its mouth and nose.
- Male lions that are seen in East Africa often do not have noticeable manes.
- Lions can survive in extreme drought conditions by eating tsama melons in the Kalhari Desert.
- To develop hunting techniques, young lion cubs spend a lot of time in playing together.
- Lion are able to jump distances over 10 meters.