Habits: Unlike most members of the cat family, lions are social animals that live in prides (family groups) of 20 - 30 individuals. Some prides include a single male, while others have as many as four. Where there is more than one male, the males are most likely litter mates. Males are strongly territorial and will challenge intruders, and lionesses will fight off other females,. Males will often fight until one lion is killed. The winner takes over dominance of the territory, and of the pride. After several seasons with a pride, the male becomes restless and may be disinterested in resisting a challenge from a rival male. If he loses, he will search for another pride to dominate. Old or injured lions who have escaped death after fighting but have lost their territory, often die trying to fend for themselves.
Breeding: A lioness has cubs approximately every 2 years. Shortly before giving birth, she chooses a suitable site for her lair, which must be well hidden, safe from potential predators, sheltered, and close to water. The cubs are born blind and have spotted coats. For the first 2 months, they drink only their mother's milk. At 6 weeks, they begin to accompany their mother to the kill, acquiring a taste for meat and learning how to hunt. By 15 months, the cubs can hunt small prey. When the cubs reach 2 years of age, their mother is pregnant again and they must leave her. Some young females may be allowed to remain in the pride, but all the male cubs are driven out by the dominant male.
Food & Hunting: Lions hunt at dusk. They have excellent eyesight and can see well in the dark. The lionesses usually hunt for the entire pride. While male lion plays little or no part in the hunt, he always takes precedence at the kill, dragging the prey to a chosen spot, the gorging himself before the females and cubs can eat. Hunting is an organized event.
During the dry season when water is scarce, lions often lie in wait close to a water hole, waiting for prey to come to get a drink. Lions prefer to hunt wildebeest and zebra, as these animals are slower and easier to catch than small antelopes and gazelles. When prey is scarce, lions eat almost anything, including carrion (dead or rotting animals). Hunger may drive them to attack larger prey, including giraffe, buffalo , or even rhinoceros, hippopotamus, and elephant calves.
Key Facts: Sizes, Weight, breeding, lifestyle,
Size: Male: 9 ft of which 3 ft is tail; females are smaller.
Weight: 450 - 550 lbs
Sexual maturity: 2 years
Mating: Year round
Gestation: 105 - 112 days
No of young: Usually 2 - 5 cubs
Lifestyle: Habit: Social and territorial,
living in family groups. young males may live in small bachelor groups.
Diet: Wildebeest, zebra, impala, antelope, and gazelle.
Related Species: Leopard, snow leopard, tiger, and jaguar are all in the genus Panthera.
Distribution: Africa, south of the Sahara, and the Giro Forest, India. A small population once believed to have lived in a remote part of Iran is now thought to be Extinct.
Conservation: Lives in the wild only in remote areas which have remained undeveloped. The best hope for the lion's continuing survival lies in well managed national parks and game reserves.
Did you know:
A lions territory is determined by the size of the pride and the availability of prey and water.
Lionesses are ferocious when defending their cubs. Several will act together to chase off a predator or an aggressive male lion.
Lions kill only when hungry. Their prey can usually sense if lions are out to kill and, if they are not, will often ignore lions wandering close to them.
The lion's mane makes his body appear larger and more impressive than it really is, which helps at mating time and frightens off rival males.
Male lions take no interest in the rearing of the young, and on occasion, may even try to kill them.
The Lions Hunt:
When lionesses hunt together, several lie in wait downwind of the herd, while another travels around the herd until she sis upwind of it. Suddenly, she breaks cover and chases the frightened herd straight toward the hidden ambush. If hunting alone, a lioness stalks her prey down wind of it. She gets as close as possible without being seen before attacking.
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