Lions, the powerful cats are at the top of the food chain, having no predators above them. Simba, the Swahili word for a lion, basically means strong, king and also aggressive. We have always seen movies and stories depicting lions as majestic and king of the jungle. In fact, when we also describe someone as lionhearted, we are referring to them as being brave and courageous.
How Much Does A Lion Weigh?
In comparison, male lions are usually much larger than female lions, both in terms of weight and also body structure. A male lion can weigh 330 to 600 pounds, whereas a lioness can weigh from 270 to 400 pounds. The length of a male lion is around 5.6 to 8.3 feet and that of a female lion is usually between 4.6 to 5.7 feet.
The Appearance Of A Lion
The basic appearance of a lion differs from the other large cats such as leopards, tigers, and jaguars.
A lion is known for its deep-chested muscular body, having rounded short heads, and round ears. They also have hairy tufts towards the end of their tails. There are notable differences in the bodies of male and female lions.
One major one being the mane of hair. The male lion has that mane around its neck, and the size, color, and abundance of all that hair depends on the particular animal and his age. The mane serves many functions for a lion; it makes a lion more intimidating to the other males, makes a male lion look impressive to the female lion, and also protects a lion’s neck during a battle with other males that happen for breeding and territorial rights.
Diet Of A Lion
Lions are the apex predators among carnivores, meaning that they are at the top of the food chain. A lion can consume around 20 pounds of meat per day, but some of them can also eat up to 100 pounds of meat every day. They hunt the animals that are in their natural habitat and may include antelopes and other hoofed animals. They can also hunt rhinos, elephants, rodents, insects, reptiles, and even crocodiles. Lions are also notorious for stealing prey from cheetahs, hyenas, leopards, and wild dogs. The female lion does most of the hunting, which is typically done at night, during dusk and dawn.
The Social Structure Of Lions
Lions are among the most social of all the large cats, living in big groups which are known as “prides.” A pride can have from 3 to 30 lions, depending on the location. Typically, areas that have an ample supply of food for the lions will have larger prides.
Mostly, prides consist of lionesses, their cubs and a few unrelated males. As lions are social animals, they have close bonds and may not accept any stranger into their pride. The animals of pride do most of the activities together, ranging from hunting to raising and the grooming of their cubs. Both the male and female lions mark their territory by scent and have different roles within the pride. The females usually hunt for the cubs, while caring for them on a communal basis.
The males are entrusted with the marking and guarding of the territory of a pride. When the females are out hunting, the males protect the cubs. At times, when a new male tries to gain entry into the pride, there ensues a battle between the existing males. Either the new male loses and goes away, or he succeeds by pushing out the existing lions of the pride.
Lifespan Of A Lion
Usually, a lion can live up to 10-18 years in the wild, and in a zoo, they can live for almost 30 years. The lions have short bursts of intensive activity for hunting purposes, and then the rest. In fact, a lion spends most of the time resting and sleeping and can lounge for almost 21 hours. As lions are good climbers, they can also rest in trees. Lions usually live in open woodlands, brush habitats, and thick grasslands, as these places can give them enough space and cover for denning and hunting.
Which Areas On The World Have Lions?
They can be found throughout the African grasslands. Another sub-species of Asiatic lions used to be found from the Middle East to India.
Now there are only around 400-600 of them, with more than half of the population living in a reserve in India known as the Gir Forest. This area is under national protection by the Indian government.
Almost three-quarters of the African lion populations are also on a decline. Lions are now listed as Vulnerable by IUCN’s Red list as there are only around 20,000-30,000 of them left in the wild. In December 2015, lions were put under the protection of the Endangered Species Act.
Why Are Lions Decreasing In Numbers?
In 21 years, the lion population has decreased by almost 43%. Much of the threat to lions is due to habitat loss, illegal wildlife trade and conflicts with humans.
The African lions now live on only 8% of the land from what they earlier used to occupy. This expansion of human farmland activity into the lion territory often results in conflicts as well.
A lion may eat human livestock as their natural prey is unavailable in the habitat. This often results in the killing of a lion by the farmers, in trying to protect their livestock. The illegal wildlife trade also poses threat to the population of lions as the bones of a lion are increasing in demand in the traditional Asian medicines, which may now be replacing tiger bones with the ones of lions. The lions are also hunted down by humans.
As the population of lions has seen a drastic decrease over the last few decades, various conservation efforts are in progress by national and international organizations.
Lion conservation projects, working particularly in the African regions have been researching the habitat of these cats. So that better solutions can be provided for their protections at large.
The Endangered Wildlife Trust is now establishing a lion database. Under the umbrella of the IUCN Cat Specialist Group, with support from Lion Recovery Fund. Other efforts are also being put by the Zoological Society of London along with the Wildlife Institute of India and Gujarat Forest Department to protect the Asiatic Lions.
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