Facts about African Lions -- Panthera leo:

A summary of most interesting statistics (size, gestation...), amazing environmental adaptations & fascinating facts about social habits, etc.

SIZE: Shoulder height (m) 1.2m (f) 1.05m; weight (m) 180kg, (f) 130kg. Females are about 40 to 50 kg lighter than males, which can have a mass of 180 up to 225 kg.

COLOUR:  African Lions are mostly tawny, but their color varies from almost silvery yellow to ochre-tinted grey to dark ochre brown with paler undersides (female belly yellowish to almost white); yellow to black mane.  Faint, leopard like spots on young sometimes retained into adulthood. Extreme colour variations do occur; such as the White Lions of the Timbavati which are very white!

The African Lions mane usually starts growing at about 6 months of age, and usually becomes darker with age or pigmentation. The Kalahari lion has a bigger mane than the Kruger lion, possible because of not having bushes and thickets to comb out their manes.

SOUNDS / CALLS: African Lions have a variety of different roars, with lionesses using grunts to call their cubs. A female lions roar is only slightly softer than a males, making it difficult to judge the sex by sound only. Factors such as vegetation density, wind direction and force, affect the distance that a roar can be heard. A full roar only comes with adulthood.

COMMUNICATION: Lions use roaring as well as facial expressions, body movements and sounds to communicate.

SENSES: Although their sense of smell, hearing and sight are very good, lions have difficulty discerning animals standing in unusual positions.

MOST LIKE:  Lions are unlikely to be confused with any other animal.

HABITAT:  African Lions occur in a variety of habitats, from open savannah to semi-desert; never in forests.

SOCIAL HABITS: As lions prefer to spend the hot part of the day in shady, dense vegetation. Lions are inactive when not on a hunt, but can walk 20km a day if required to do so. If there is sufficient game and water, a lion pride will stay in the same area, except for young adult males who wish to make their own pride.

DIET / FEEDING HABITS: They have a preference for large prey, which, although more difficult to kill, provides more food. Giraffes are the largest prey for lions, which will only attack diseased or disabled rhinos or weak hippos that are on dry land. A fully grown elephant is a match for any pride of lions.

The size of the prey is the deciding factor on the method of killing, with the killing bite directed at the back of the neck. Small prey is killed quickly, but larger prey often die from blood loss or suffocation, which could last 10 minutes or more. Adult giraffe, buffalo and other large species of prey, are normally hunted by more than 1 lion. Prey is normally attacked from the back, to avoid dangerous horns.

Most kills are made near waterholes during the day, or during the night when they are less visible. Lions make use of wind direction to stalk their prey, encircling them and causing the prey to scatter in the direction of the hidden members of the pride. Cubs are led to kills from the time they are able to walk properly, and the female will take food off them if she is hungry, or even kill a cub who tries to feed with her.

For more interesting facts about feeding, see the African Lion Hunting Habits page

REPRODUCTION & GESTATION PERIOD: The period between births is between 18 and 26 months, but should a female lose her litter, she may mate again within a few days and produce another litter within 4 to 5 months. A lioness can give birth to her first litter at the age of three and a half to four years and continue for over ten years.

About 50% of cubs, which are born throughout the year, survive into adulthood. Cubs start supplementing their mild diet with meat at about 4 weeks, and are fully weaned at about four months. Lactating lionesses allow small cubs from any litter to suckle.

After a gestation period of about 110 days, birth is given in a secluded spot, and the cubs are almost totally helpless until they are about 3 weeks. The lioness hides her cubs when she goes hunting. The cubs usually join the pride at about 3 to 4 weeks, when they are fully mobile.

see African Lion Reproduction page for more amazing facts about Lions

LIFESPAN / POTENTIAL LONGEVITY: A lion in the wild could reach the age of 15 years and in excess of 20 years in captivity.

CONSERVATION STATUS: see African Lion Conservation Status

MORTALITY / ENEMIES: Healthy adult lions do not have natural enemies apart from man and other lions. A number of cubs are killed by predators and will thus sometimes kill cheetahs, hyaenas and leopards, but seldom consume them. Most lions die from diseases, parasites, starvation or old age. Lions have been killed by some of their larger prey, snakes and even porcupine, when quills get lodged, especially in the mouth, causing infection or death from starvation.

DISTRIBUTION: Originally found in Europe, Asia Minor, Arabia, Israel and Pakistan, there are now no lions outside Africa apart from a small group of about 200 in a sanctuary in the State of Gujarat, India. Although lions are mostly confined to nature reserves, they are still fairly common in the savannah areas of Africa. Go to places to see African Lion for more information.

DISTRIBUTION MAP:

For more amazing facts on African Lions use the menu on the right.

The "Big 5":LionLeopardElephantBuffaloRhino

Best places to see the African Lion in Southern Africa:

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OTHER RESERVES/ PLACES TO SEE LION

Okavango Delta (Botswana)
Savuti Marsh (Botswana)
Mashatu Game Reserve (Botswana)
Kaokaveld in northwestern Namibia

African Lion Links

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