African Lion

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Scientific Name

Panthera leo krugeri
Also called: Transvaal lion

Description

The male African Lion weighs between 330 – 550 pounds and the female African Lion weighs between 260 – 400 pounds. It is a very large cat and measures around 8 to 10 feet long (not including the tail). Only male lions have a mane, which is one of its most recognizable and well known features. When the lion is young, the mane starts out as a yellowish color and then tends to darken as the lion gets older. At maturity, the mane tends to be a dark brown color. The African lion is a skilled hunter and has a body designed perfectly for it. It uses its back legs for pouncing and its front legs for grabbing and bringing down prey, while its strong jaws and teeth can bite into even its larger animal prey.

Food

The African lion is a carnivore and primarily hunts large to medium sized animals like the zebra, buffalo, giraffe, wildebeest, wild hogs, and antelope. To catch its meals, the lion quietly stalks its prey until it is within about 100 feet of it. Then it rushes at the prey and tries to prevent it from running away by batting at it with its strong arms or grabs onto it with its super sharp claws. To kill its prey, the lion will usually bite the animal’s throat or muzzle to suffocate it. Once the prey is captured, the entire lion pride usually takes part in eating it together. It is estimated that about ¼ of all lion hunts are successful. In order to survive and be healthy, a male lion needs about 15 lbs of meat each day and females need about 11 lbs.

Habitat

The African Lion can be found throughout many parts of the continent of Africa, but they mostly live in the southeastern part. They prefer savannas, grassy plains, and semi deserts.

Predators

As an apex predator, the African Lion has almost no predators as it is very high on the food chain. Its most vulnerable time is during infancy and the early years of its life as it may not be able to fight for enough of the food left over from prey to survive and grow. It is also more vulnerable during this time to other predators or male lions who are trying to move into their pride. If a lion cub reaches adulthood, it typically lives for around 13 – 25 years.

Social Structure

Surprisingly, the lion is the only animal of the big cats that is very social. Their life revolves around the lion pride which can consist of around 3 – 30 lions. Usually, all of the female lions in a pride are related, but males usually join a group of females and stay for an indefinite period of time. Male lions have even been observed joining multiple prides at the same time. When threatened by outside males, male lions in a pride will usually join together to defend their group of female lions. Most of the hunting of prey in a pride is a done by the females lions.

Birth & Offspring

Typically male lions do not compete for the right to mate female lions within their pride. Usually the first male lion to encounter a female in heat is given the right to mate with her. The gestation period for African Lions is around 100 to 120 days after conception. Lion litters usually consist of around 1 – 6 cubs (avg. is 2 or 3). Once born, cubs typically weigh less than 5 pounds and open their eyes in around 3 weeks. As soon as 3 months after being born, baby cubs may be seen with their mother on hunting trips and will usually stay near their mother’s side for the first two years of life.

Lion cub with its mother nuzzling his fur

Sense

African lions have very good sense of smell as well as eyesight and hearing. Their quick reflexes also allow them to keep up with very agile and fast prey such as the antelope.

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