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Common Name: African lion

Scientific Name: Panthera leo

Description: The African lion is most known for the striking mane of the male lion which varies from shades of tawny to black. Males may weigh up to 250 kg. Lions have been tracked at speeds between 50 and 60 km/h and leaps of 12 m are reported. Lions exhibit several distinct calls communicating information between members of a pride and indicating territorial ownership of an area. The roar of the lion may carry up to 3 km. Although an individual cat has not accounted for great numbers of human deaths, lions have been known to attack human populations. Between 1932 and 1947, approximately 2,000 deaths were attributed to one pride of lions in East Africa. And two male lions ceased operations on a railway project by preying on the workers' camps. By far and away, however, "the" book to have on lions is George Schaller's "Serengeti Lion."


Range: Portions of Northern Africa with densest populations in Central and East Africa. Approximately, 10,000 years ago a type of lion was found in North America and the upper reaches of South America, Eurasia and Africa. Recently, the lion ranged into Europe as recently as 2,000 years ago and was found in Palestine as recently as the era of the Crusades. The subspecies persica remains in the Gir forest in the Gujarat State of western India.

Habitat: Grassy plains, open woodlands, and savannah.

Diet: Carnivorous: prey ranges from rodents to 500 kg mammals regularly including antelope, zebra, buffalo, wildebeest. Research indicates between 1 in 4 and 1 in 6 stalks yield successful kills. In some areas, large percentages the lion's diet is initially acquired by hyenas. At a kill, the males take first rights for the carcass, then the females. No special allowances are given for subadults and cubs. Partially because of this, infant mortality is as high as 80% in the first two years.

Social Life: The lion is the most social of all the big cats. Groups called prides range in size from half a dozen to over thirty individuals. The group consists mainly of females\ and juveniles with a smaller number of adult males who share the responsibility of protecting the pride. The males generally have about three years with the pride before they are contested for their pride by another group of males. Females in a pride stay with the pride as they mature while males leave the pride when reaching maturity. Maturity is reached between three and four years with longevity up to the early teens but much longer when living outside the wild.

Conservation: The African lion is listed by the IUCN as Vulnerable for the East and South subspecies and Endangered for the West African subspecies. It is listed as Appendix II by CITES. Currently West Africa is said to hold less than 1,000 individuals, East Africa approximately 10,000, and South Africa over 10,000.

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