Lion o African lion (Panthera leo), also know as "King of the jungle«, Is a mammal of the family Felidae and is one of the four "big cats" of the genus Panthera. The lion is the second feline largest, after tiger. Lions are unique because they are the only cats that live in groups (pride).

While once found in much of Africa, Asia, and Europe, lions are currently found in the wild only in Africa and in the Gir Forest of India (where it is found only in Sasan-Gir National Park). The main habitats of a lion are open forests, savannas, scrublands, and grassy plains.

The lion is a sociable animal and respects a hierarchy within a pride.

Species

The former was believed to be a group of seven extant lion subspecies that inhabited the African continent, while the latter was considered a single lion subspecies that lived in Asia. However, today two subspecies of lions are recognized:

  • P.I. leo, which consists of Asiatic, West African, Central African and Barbary lions.
  • PI melanochaita, consisting of lions from South Africa, including the Cape lion and the East lion.

According to this new classification, the same species of lion occupies Asia and northern and central Africa, and the same species occupies southern and eastern Africa.

Features

The male lion is also the only feline that has a mane, giving it a regal appearance that has earned it the title of king of beasts. The mane of the male lion is one of the most distinctive features of the species. Makes the lion appear larger, providing an excellent display of intimidation. This helps the lion during confrontations with other lions and with the main competitor of lions in Africa, the spotted hyena.

Male lions weigh between 150 - 225 kilograms and female lions weigh between 120 - 150 kilograms. The length of a lion's tail is 70 to 100 centimeters. Its tail ends in a hairy tuft. The tuft hides a spine, about 5 millimeters long, made up of the final sections of the tail bone fused together. The lion is the only feline to have a tufted tail, and the function of the tuft and spine is unknown. Absent at birth, the tuft develops around 5 months of age and is easily identifiable at 7 months. In the wild, lions live between 10 and 14 years, while in captivity they can live more than 20 years.

Females are the main hunters of the herd. They form hunting groups to corner the fast animals that are in their habitat.

Lions also face animals much larger than themselves, they can kill animals weighing up to 500 kilograms.

Male African lions that are trying to take over a pride will kill all the cubs to avoid competition.

Lions and Tigers they are so closely related that if you shaved them you wouldn't be able to tell them apart. Their body structure is so similar that only experts can tell them apart. Lions are also related to leopards and jaguars.

Although Cougars They belong to the same family (Felidae) as Asian and African lions, they are not considered lions.

According to the WWF, lions can run up to 80 km / h in short distances and jump up to 11 meters.

A lioness stalking a prey.

Behavior

Lions are primarily nocturnal (active at night) or twilight (becoming active at dusk or before sunset). Lions spend much of their time resting, often up to 20 hours a day. Lions rest for many different reasons, including energy conservation, lack of prey, and to avoid the heat of the day.

During rest periods, lions have many opportunities for social behavior. They gather and sleep in groups, rubbing their heads and playing. All of these behaviors are good for strengthening your social ties.

Group life allows lions to hunt to eat together. Female lions (lionesses) in a pride can scatter around potential prey to attack it from many directions. Lions generally hunt by stalking, as they are not made to run with endurance.

During hunting, lions generally abandon the hunt after 45 to 100 meters. Lions strangle or suffocate larger prey by holding their necks to prevent them from breathing. A lion may place its paw on the prey's nose, mouth, or windpipe. A lion easily captures its smaller prey with a swipe of one of its massive legs.

Despite their tremendous adaptive power and efficiency, lions are more likely to fail than to be successful in their attempts to kill.

Why is the lion territorial?

Lions with a rich and reliable food supply can afford to be territorial. When the food supply is unpredictable, these big cats have huge shooting areas that are too large to defend. In these cases, encounters between lions from different prides are very hostile, but actual fights are rare.

Both lions and lionesses signal their occupation of an area by scent marking with urine and by roaring. The roars can travel about 8 km and announce the location of a lion. It also shows that an area is occupied and allows members of the pack to control each other.

We can appreciate the magnificent mane of these big cats.

Habitat

Lions do not have specific habitat preferences, so they can be found anywhere except in forests. African lion habitats include open plains, thick bushes, and semi-desert.

Lion hunting techniques are most successful in long grasses and thick bushes.

Distribution

African lions live in Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, Tanzania, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, and other parts of sub-Saharan Africa. They roam a territory of 259 square kilometers.

Asiatic lions are only found in Gir Forest National Park in India. This park is a wildlife sanctuary on 1412 square km of land.

Food

Lions are carnivores, which means they eat meat.

In nature the prey of lions are usually formed by ñus, zebras and various ungulates (giraffes, búfalos and gazelles). Occasionally lions hunt young elephants, Rinocerontes o hippos. Lions also gather food, scaring off hyenas and other carnivores from their kills. Lions are known to be opportunists and also eat rodents, small birds, hares y reptiles.

A lion chasing its prey can run across a soccer field in six seconds. Lions' eyes have a horizontal streak of nerve cells that carefully watch their prey across the plains.

At the zoo, the lion's diet consists of commercially prepared cat food, such as chickens, rabbits, lambs, and horse meat.

Predators

The lion is not the king of the jungle for nothing: once it is grown, the only predator it faces is the human. Weighing up to 225 kilograms and living in a pride of approximately 15 to 30 lions, no other animal is in a position to take on this position and win.

Lions are magnificent big cats, found mainly in the plains of East and West Africa south of the Sahara. They are social, living herds according to a different hierarchy.

Up to three males patrol and protect a territory while the females hunt and care for the cubs. Working together, lions can take down zebras, buffalo, young elephants, giraffes, hippos, and rhinos. They also eat antelope, lizards, mice, and scrabbled food. Hyenas sometimes fight lions for food, but they generally lose to bigger and stronger lions.

Although it is at the top of its food chain, the African lion is in danger because of us. Since 1980, the lion population has decreased by 50 percent. Humans appreciate the lion for its trophy status, making it a target for big game hunters. Farmers also kill lions to protect their livestock from the predatory nature of the big cat. When a male lion is killed, the pride is often taken over by a nomadic lion who kills the cubs, adding to the decrease in the lion's number of cubs.

Reproduction

The females can reproduce several times a year. However, an adult female lioness will not produce her next litter until her cubs are about 2 years old. If the entire litter unfortunately dies, it will mate again shortly after the death of the last puppy.

The gestation period of a lioness is between 110 and 119 days. Then a litter of between 3 and 6 puppies is produced. Cubs are usually born in an isolated nursery and are introduced to the pack when they are 4 to 6 weeks old.

Puppies are very small at birth - they weigh around 900 grams to just under a kilogram and a half. Puppies nurse until 6 months of age and begin eating meat at 3 months of age. The females raise their young together and nurse other cubs that are not their own.

The new males can kill the new cubs so that the females mate with them and produce their own cubs.

Young cubs begin hunting with the pack at 11 months, although they probably would not be able to survive on their own until around 30 months of age.

Baby lion deaths are very high, and less than 50% of newborn cubs survive to their first year of life. In the hierarchy of a pride of lions, the male lions are the first to feed, followed by the females and, finally, by the cubs. Since the pack can only kill an animal once every 3-5 days, it is clear why many pups starve to death. However, it is more common for cubs to survive when born to a pride, than when born to a lioness on their own.

A beautiful baby lion.

State of conservation

It is an animal classified as Vulnerable (VU). The number of lions is declining rapidly and there are an estimated 16.000 to 30.000 living in the wild, compared to 100.000 in the early 1990s. The population is even more endangered as the remaining populations are often isolated geographically from each other, causing inbreeding.

Relationship with humans

Some lions are known to eat humans, however, this is believed to have only been done by those who suffer injuries and disabilities that make it difficult for them to hunt for natural prey, thus chasing humans, as they are weaker and easier to capture. Several other theories include the desire to defend yourself. Another is that their natural habitat is not available and that by not wanting to starve, they attack humans. The idea that lions are predators of humans has created ignorance and increased the amount of hunting by encouraging the extermination of these creatures. Humans have taken over territories that once belonged to lions and, by forcing them to abandon their natural home, have further demolished their habitat and lifestyle, leaving them to suffer and destroy their lives. Lions are now on the list of vulnerable species and their population has irreversibly declined.

Popular culture

Without a doubt, the most famous lion in history is Simba, from the Disney movie The Lion King, The Lion King in its original language, 1994 film that recounts the adventures of Simba, along with Rudder (A meerkat) Y Pumba (A pokemon).

Simba, the protagonist of The Lion King.
The Lion King ® is a registered trademark of Walt Disney Pictures

Interesting data

  • The roar of lions can be heard 8 kilometers away.
  • In the wild, lions can live for about 15 years.
  • Lions can reach the speed of 81 km / h, but not for long. They need to hit the target close enough to be successful in the hunt.

List of other interesting animals