Panthera leo

Range: East Africa to Kalahari Desert

Habitat: Rich grasslands to desert sands

Conservation status: Current population of African lions is roughly 21,000 animals. The subspecies in the East and South is listed as "vulnerable," while the subspecies found in the West is " endangered."

African Lion

  • • At one time, lions had the greatest geographical distribution of any land animal, except humans and their domestic animals. About 10,000 years ago, lions were even found throughout North America, and parts of northern South America. Diminished numbers primarily due to persecution of the lion as a predator of livestock. Lions have been exterminated in much of South Africa and of East Africa. Although widespread over large regions, the species could be in trouble in the near future.
    • Live in groups known as prides, made up of 3 to 12 females of breeding age, 2 to 4 males of breeding-age and several cubs of various ages. Members of a pride share the same territory, are friendly to each other, but rarely hang out together in the same area. They spend a great deal of time in groups of twos or threes— sometimes pursuing prey animals.
    • The females are in charge of moving the pride, deciding where to sleep, and for finding water. They also do most of the hunting because their bodies are lighter and less conspicuous.
    • Mane is a symbol of dominance. Lions know if they see a large mane to keep their distance. A large mane helps give the appearance of great size without the disadvantage of increased weight. It also helps protect the lion’s neck from cuts and bites during a fight. The mane usually develops at about one year of age.
    • Lions, tigers, leopards, and jaguars (panthera genus) can roar but not purr while all other cats can purr but not roar. This is because of differences in the anatomy of the voice box.
    • Cooperative hunting is an adaptation for bringing down large prey in open terrain.

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