Characteristics and description of the lion
The lion is the second largest feline in the world after the tiger. The largest lions can measure over 8 feet long and weigh 550 pounds.
This species has very marked gender dimorphism. This can be seen not only in its size, as females are smaller, but also in the males’ large mane, which gives them their unique appearance.
Why do they say that the lion is the king of the savanna?
The lion is known as the king of the savanna because this animal has no predators except for human beings. They are massive animals with great strength, powerful claws, and fangs that are over 3 inches long.
Curiously, lions are very sociable animals. In fact, it is the only feline in the world that lives in packs, which are usually made up of one, two, or three adult males and a large number of females and young. Packs can have more than twenty individuals.
Another interesting fact about lions is that the females are in charge of hunting prey and they always attack in groups. The males restrict themselves to defending their territory in the event of possible threats or competitors.
Lions are also very fond of sleeping, spending between 13 and 15 hours a day asleep.
Habitat of the lion
In the past, the lion was a very common mammal that was abundant throughout the African continent, apart from the Sahara Desert and the thick jungles of the Congo. It also lived in a large part of Asia, from the Arabian Peninsula to India, as well as in the Anatolian Peninsula and the Caucuses—even in Southeastern Europe. It was possible to find them in Greece and the Balkans until the time of the Romans.
However, although nowadays it is still found in a fairly large part of Africa, its population is very fragmented and disperse. It is only found in areas of savanna, from Senegal to Ethiopia and sub-Saharan Africa. The species has also disappeared from all of Eurasia, except for a very small group that remains in the Gir Forest, in Western India.
What do lions eat?
The lion is a carnivore that eats large mammals such as gnus, zebras, warthogs, impalas, and buffalo. Despite the fact that the lion can reach speeds of up to 35 miles per hour, it cannot sustain them for long periods of time. Therefore, it has to be close to its prey when it is going to attack. It moves close to its victims undetected and, once nearby, launches towards them and attacks. Its prey usually dies from asphyxiation or strangulation.
This feline usually eats an average of between 11 and 15 pounds of meat per day.
The lion can mate at any time of the year. The gestation period lasts for around 110 days. To give birth, the female separates from the group and usually gives birth to a litter of between 2 to 4 cubs. The cubs are blind when they are born; it takes them about a week to open their eyes. While they are young, the mother usually moves them from place to place so that they don’t give off their scent in one place for a long time and to avoid attacks by predators. They will only return to the pack when the cubs are around eight weeks old.
Is the lion at risk of extinction?
Although this species is not endangered, the lion has suffered a great setback in its population, especially in the 20th century. A large part of this is the result of the indiscriminate killing of lions that took place for decades in order to protect human lives as well as livestock. This setback is also due to hunting for sport as well as the depletion and reduction in the number of prey as a consequence of habitat destruction.
The current population is estimated to be between 23,000 and 39,000 individuals, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). It is currently considered to be vulnerable.