Our Beautiful World

Lion, Panthera leo


King of the wild animals
©Jonathan and Angela Scott [1]

Subfamily Felinae
Subfamily Pantherinae

Genus Panthera
Lion, Panthera leo,
   Asiatic Lion, Panthera leo persica 1)
   Barbary Lion, Panthera leo leo 2)
   West African Lion, Panthera leo senegalensis 3)
   Northeast Congo Lion, Panthera leo azandica 4)
   East African Lion, Panthera leo nubica 5)
   Southwest African Lion, Panthera leo bleyenberghi 6)
   Southeast African Lion, Panthera leo krugeri 7)
   Cape Lion, Panthera leo melanochaita 8)

Jaguar, Panthera onca,
Leopard, Panthera pardus,
Tiger, Panthera tigris,

Eight recent (Holocene) subspecies are recognised today:
1) Panthera leo persica, known as the Asiatic lion or South Asian, Persian, or Indian Lion, once was
widespread from Turkey, across Southwest Asia, to Pakistan, India, and even to Bangladesh.
However, large prides and daylight activity made them easier to poach than tigers or leopards;
now around 300 exist in and near the Gir Forest of India.

2) Panthera leo leo, known as the Barbary lion, originally ranged from Morocco to Egypt.
It is extinct in the wild due to excessive hunting. The last wild Barbary lion was killed in Morocco in 1922.
This was one of the largest of the lion subspecies, with reported lengths of 3–3.3 metres
and weights of more than 200 kilograms for males.
There are a number of animals in captivity likely to be Barbary lions, particularly 90 animals descended
from the Moroccan Royal collection at Rabat Zoo.

3) Panthera leo senegalensis, known as the West African Lion, is found in western Africa,
from Senegal to the Central African Republic.

4) Panthera leo azandica, known as the Northeast Congo Lion,
is found in the northeastern parts of the Congo.

5) Panthera leo nubica, known as the East African, Massai Lion is found in east Africa,
from Ethiopia and Kenya to Tanzania and Mozambique. A local population is known as Tsavo Lion.

6) Panthera leo bleyenberghi, known as the Southwest African or Katanga Lion,
is found in southwestern Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Angola, Katanga (Zaire), Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

7) Panthera leo krugeri, known as the Southeast African Lion or Transvaal Lion,
is found in the Transvaal region of southeastern Africa, including Kruger National Park.

8) Panthera leo melanochaita, known as the Cape lion, became extinct in the wild around 1860.

Immediately before a zebra becomes food for lions. Notice that it is the female doing the hunting!.
©Jonathan and Angela Scott [1]

The lion is a magnificent animal that appears as a symbol of power, courage and nobility on family crests, coats of arms
and national flags in many civilizations. Lions at one time were found from Greece through the Middle East to northern India,
but today only a very small population remains in India. In the past lions lived in most parts of Africa, but are now
confined to the sub-Saharan region.

Mature male lions are unique among the cat species for the thick mane of brown or black hair encircling the head and neck
. Both male and female lions roar, a sound which can be heard as far as 8 kilometers away.

©Jonathan and Angela Scott [1]

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 in weight, it is the second-largest living cat after the tiger.

Wild lions currently exist in Sub-Saharan Africa and in Asia with an endangered remnant population
in Gir Forest National Park in India, having disappeared from North Africa and Southwest Asia in historic times.
The lion is a vulnerable species, having seen a possibly irreversible population decline of thirty to fifty percent over
the past two decades in its African range. Lion populations are untenable 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. Within Africa, the West African lion population is particularly endangered.

ARKive video - African lions stalking, killing and eating zebras

African lions stalking, killing and eating zebras
BBC Natural History Unit

Lions. Masai Mara NP, Kenya
The males have just stopped eating and the females who have had to wait their turn
are just rushing in to start eating.
© Craig Hayslip, 1997

Lions live for ten to fourteen years in the wild, while in captivity they can live longer than twenty years.
In the wild, males seldom live longer than ten years, as injuries sustained from continual fighting with rival males
greatly reduce their longevity.

© Photo Des & Jen Bartlett, National Geographic, March 1983

They typically inhabit savanna and grassland, although they may take to bush and forest.
Lions are unusually social compared to other cats. A pride of lions consists of related females and offspring
and a small number of adult males. Groups of female lions typically hunt together, preying mostly on large ungulates*).
Lions are apex and keystone predators, although they scavenge as opportunity allows.
While lions do not typically hunt humans, some have been known to do so.

*) Ungulates (meaning roughly "being hoofed" or "hoofed animal" and pronounced /'??gj?le?ts/) are several
groups of mammals, most of which use the tips of their toes, usually hoofed, to sustain their whole body weight while moving.

© Photo Des & Jen Bartlett, National Geographic, March 1983

The lion is the tallest (at the shoulder) of all living cats, averaging about 14 cm taller than the tiger. Behind only the tiger,
the lion is the second largest living felid in length and weight. Its skull is very similar to that of the tiger, although the
frontal region is usually more depressed and flattened, with a slightly shorter postorbital region. The lion's skull has
broader nasal openings than the tiger.

Lion coloration varies from light buff to yellowish, reddish, or dark ochraceous brown. The underparts are generally
lighter and the tail tuft is black. Lion cubs are born with brown rosettes (spots) on their body, rather like those of a leopard
. Although these fade as lions reach adulthood, faint spots often may still be seen on the legs and underparts.

ARKive video - African lion - overview
African lion - overview
BBC Natural History Unit, Audio: Films@59 and BBC Natural History Unit

During confrontations with others, the mane makes the lion look larger.
Weights for adult lions range between 150–250 kg for males and 120–182 kg for females. Lions tend to vary in size
depending on their environment and area, resulting in a wide spread in recorded weights. For instance, lions in southern
Africa tend to be about 5 percent heavier than those in East Africa, in general.

Head and body length is 170–250 cm in males and 140–175 cm in females; shoulder height is up to 123 cm in males
and as low as 91 cm in females. The tail length is 90–105 cm in males and 70–100 cm in females. The longest known lion,
at nearly 3.6 m in total length, was a black-maned male shot near Mucsso, southern Angola in October 1973;
the heaviest lion known in the wild was a man-eater shot in 1936 just outside Hectorspruit in eastern Transvaal, South Africa
and weighed 313 kg.

ARKive video - African elephants chasing away African lion pride
African elephants chasing away African lion pride
BBC Natural History Unit

Lions in captivity tend to be larger than lions in the wild—the heaviest lion on record is a male at Colchester Zoo in England
named Simba in 1970, which weighed 375 kg.

Lions spend much of their time resting and are inactive for about 20 hours per day.[58] Although lions can be active at
any time, their activity generally peaks after dusk with a period of socializing, 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 eating.

Four Lionesses take down a bull cape buffalo in the central Serengeti, 2009

Lions are the most socially inclined of all wild felids, most of which remain quite solitary in nature. The lion is a predatory
carnivore who manifest two types of social organization. Some are residents, living in groups, called prides.The pride usually consists of five or six related 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 (although extremely large prides, consisting of up to 30 individuals, have been observed).
The number of adult males in a coalition is usually two, but may increase to four and decrease again over time.
Male cubs are excluded from their maternal pride when they reach maturity.

ARKive video - Spotted hyenas stealing food from African lions
Spotted hyenas stealing food from African lions
Photo: Dereck & Beverly Joubert. Audio: BBC Natural History Unit

Lions are powerful animals that usually hunt in coordinated groups and stalk their chosen prey. They only run fast in short
bursts, and need to be close to their prey before starting the attack. They take advantage of factors that reduce visibility;
many kills take place near some form of cover or at night. They sneak up to the victim until they reach a distance of around
30 metres or less. The lioness is the one who does the hunting for the pride, since the lioness is more aggressive by nature.
The male lion usually stays and watches its young while waiting for the lionesses to return from the hunt.

Typically, several lionesses work together and encircle the herd from different points. Once they have closed with a herd,
they usually target the closest prey. 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. Smaller prey, though, may simply be killed by a swipe of a lion's paw.

Female lion
Photo: Mila Zinkova, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Female_Lion.JPG

The prey consists mainly of large mammals, with a preference for wildebeest, impalas, zebras, buffalo, and warthogs in
Africa and nilgai, wild boar, and several deer species in India. Many other species are hunted, based on availability.
Mainly this will include ungulates weighing between 50 and 300 kg such as kudu, hartebeest, gemsbok, and eland.Occasionally, they take relatively small species such as Thomson's gazelle or springbok. Lions hunting in groups are
capable of taking down most animals, even healthy adults, but in most parts of their range they rarely attack very large
prey such as fully grown male giraffes due to the danger of injury.

[1] Cambrix CD: Explore The Untamed World © 1996 Alpenglow, Ind. Photographers: Jonathan and Angela Scott
whom we haven't found yet, to get their permission.......



  African Wildlife Foundation, Lions....
  Ngoro National Park (Lions on page 3)


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