MammalMAP: the Lion
Although lions are not the largest, nor the most powerful of all animals, male lions are often referred to as the King of the jungle due to their regal posture. Thery're also one of the 5 big animals, a term coined by hunters of old because of the degree of danger involved in hunting lions. There are many reports, since centuries ago, of hunters injured or killed through the years while trying to hunt lions.
A male lion’s roars can be heard from a distance over 60 km. Lions often roar after a kill or when members of prides are trying to locate each other. Lionesses have a soft short roar that they utter when calling their cubs.
Lions used to occur throughout South Africa, but due to their merciless persecution in South Africa (due to conflicts with humans and their interest), they are now mainly restricted to protected areas. They only occur naturally in the Northern and Eastern parts of South Africa. In the north they mainly occur naturally in the Kruger National Park, and the Private Game reserve farms, bordering Kruger National Park. They also occur naturally in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park and in KwaZulu-Natal Parks like Hluhluwe – Imfolozi. Lions have been reintroduced to, amongst others, the Addo National Park, to some provincial parks and reserves, as well as private game reserves throughout South Africa.
They mainly range from woodland and open savanna to desert and arid areas, wherever sufficient prey can be found.
Lions are the largest predators in Africa. They are also the most sociable of the cat family, and they can live in prides of up to 20 and more. Males are territorial and will defend their pride and territory against the intruders, some fights ending in death. There are usually between 1 and 4 adult males (a dominant male and other adults or often brothers of the same litter) per pride, depending on the size of the territory and the size of their pride which consist of females and their cubs, as well as the young males.
Females do most of the hunting, although males do hunt at times. The prides usually hunt together. At any kill of a pride, the dominant will feed first, following other males, and then the females. The cubs will feed last when the others had their fill. Loins hunt by stealth - they stalk their prey or wait in the ambush near the water until the prey animal is close enough to pounce upon. Lions often are opportunistic hunters in the sense that they will kill when the opportunity arise. Lions will also kill any predator if they get a chance and often kill the young of leopards, jackals, hyena, cheetahs, honey badgers, caracal, wild dogs and civets amongst others to naturally eliminate competition for food and territory. They will not always eat these animals but sometimes might.
Lions mate repeatedly (some say every 15 minutes) over a period of 2 to 3 days. They have no specific breeding season. Adult male lions may at times have serious confrontations when battles over a female ensue, at times leading to serious injury or even death for one or both of the lions. Males are much larger and heavier than females, which are of more slender built. Adult males usually have large manes where females do not.
Mass Male: 170 to 235 kg
Female: 130 to 200 kg
Lions are opportunistic hunters. They will eat anything from termites to an elephant if they can. Depending on their territory and species of prey available in the area, they usually hunt medium to large sized animals like wildebeest, impala, zebra, waterbuck, kudu, buffalo and giraffe amongst others and even in some cases hippos, young rhinos and elephants. Giraffe have been known to inflict serious injuries to lions and often kill lions, while defending themselves by kicking at the lions especially with hind legs.
Lions are often found following large or smaller herds of buffalo while waiting for chances to catch and kill one, although buffaloes are not that easy to catch and kill due to the fact that they will not always run away – they will group together (often forming a circle around the young) and try to stand their ground in an effort to defend themselves and their young ones against the lions. Lions are also often injured or killed by buffaloes, especially by the bulls, which can cause a lot of damage with their horns as well as by stomping on the lions with their hard hooves.
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