African Lion
Panthera leo

CLASS: Mammalia
ORDER: Carnivora
FAMILY: Felidae

SIZE:
7 to 10 feet in length; 300 to 500 lbs.

RANGE:
Angola, the southern parts of the Congo Basin, Somalia down through South Africa

HABITAT:
Grassy plains, savannas, open woodlands, dry scrub. It frequents the belts of acacia trees and bush bordering rivers but rarely enters closed-canopy forest.

DIET:
Wild - Carnivore; wildebeest, hartebeest, water-buck, zebra, impala, giraffe, rats, carrion, termites

Zoo - Prepared zoo diet for large cats, other meats at times

ADAPTATIONS:

  • Binocular vision -- Because the eyes are located in the front of the face, the image of an object falls on both retina. This enables the animal to accurately judge distances. Lions are noted to have excellent eyesight, especially for moving objects.
  • Sharp, retractable claws -- important in seizing and holding a prey animal. Being retractable enables the claws to remain sharp.
  • Stalk and stealth -- stalks prey until it is within close range. Rushes its target with speed of 30 mph, which is maintained for only a limited period. Will usually give up chase if the first attempt fails.
  • Great strength and size -- because of its strength and size, it can overpower large prey animals.
  • Social unit -- lions are commonly found in family units called "prides." Prides will vary in size due to food availability, seasonal factors, and terrains. Only true social cats. Basis of resident pride is a group of related females and their young. Young males depart as they reach maturity. One to several adult males may join pride for indefinite periods.
  • Padded toes -- the feet are well-haired except for the naked, rubbery pads which allow for a soft and noiseless tread.
  • Mainly nocturnal and crepuscular. Hunts at night and sleeps during day. Is active during cooler part of day. Usually the lioness (female) kills the prey with a single blow on the back, breaking the spinal column. Sometimes two lions approach prey from opposite directions. When it kills, it usually gorges, then drinks large quantities of water duing the morning and sleeps during the day. Average period of inactivity is about 20-21 hours per day.
  • Life span of 15 years.

YOUNG:
2 - 4 cubs born; will remain with the group for at least 18 months

STATUS:
Vulnerable; CITES App. II; population is dwindling due to loss of prey and habitat. Good populations in various National Parks.