Description of a Lion (Panthera Leo)
of reading - words
Formerly present on several continents (Europe, Africa, India and the Middle East). The lion has now disappeared from these regions and is now distributed between Africa and Asia. The African subspecies (Panthera leo leo) are between 15,000 and 30,000 individuals living in sub-Saharan Africa. The Asian subspecies (Panthera leo persica) counts only 250 individuals living in India in Gir National Park.
It lives mainly in open or semi-open environments, its natural habitat is mainly savannah 🌿but it can also venture into plains or semi-deserts with shaded areas. Thus, the Asiatic lion has never competed with its cousin the tiger, which lives mainly in more closed environments such as tropical rainforests or marshes.
Characteristics of the Lion.
This carnivore belongs to the felidae family of which it is the 2nd largest specimen after the tiger. The male weighs between 330 and 500lbs and measures between 175 and 250cm long to which is added its tail of about 100cm. The female weighs between 180 and 380lbs and measures between 160 and 195cm long in addition to her tail, which is about 85cm long. Its height at the withers varies between 100cm and 150cm for the largest males.
Males have a long mane, often brown, fawn or sometimes black, appearing around the age of three years. This mane is a major indicator of an individual's good health, nutrition and hormonal status. In addition, this mane provides them with a protective grip when fighting rival males. The lion's other distinctive feature is its tail, which has a caudal excrescence at the tip. This brush of black hair is actually an undeveloped vertebra which they use to scare away flies. This characteristic had been noticed as early as antiquity and at that time, men thought that this pointed tail tip was a weapon, a sort of spur with which the animal could prick the flanks of its opponent.
Social life of Lions.
The lion lives in groups, which makes it the only sociable feline 🦁. The group is made up of an average of 5 to 30 individuals depending on the number of prey available on the territory. This is why the group divides into sub-groups to hunt. This carnivore mainly eats bovines such as antelopes, wildebeest but also buffaloes, young elephants, zebras, giraffes.
In all cases, it is in most cases the lioness who is in charge of the hunt, the lion being in charge of protecting her group. But male lions hunts too ! Sometimes, in gatherings of about thirty individuals, they try to attack adult elephants, hippopotamuses or rhinos with the help of lions, but most of the time they flee when the latter defend themselves vigorously. This group is made up of females related to each other, unlike the males present, thus avoiding inbreeding, but it is also this principle that condemns young lions to be hunted by their fathers.
Two males African lions.
Lions reproduction and cubs.
The lioness has a litter of one to four cubs after four months of gestation. After giving birth, she remains hidden for six weeks with her cubs, which she leaves alone to go hunting for sometimes 48 hours. This is a delicate moment in the life of lions because this is when they are most vulnerable and their predators, hyenas and leopards, are on the lookout. Later on, their direct predators will be man, hyenas and Nile crocodiles who feed on the same prey.
All individuals, both males and females, are involved in the education of the young and the cubs suckle their mothers but also the other nursing females within the group. Young males remain in the group until the age of two to three years and are then hunted by the dominant male.
It is then that the young males become nomadic for a while and form a kind of coalition. Together, they travel very long distances until they find a group that they will try to lead. When the newcomers win the fight, they often come to infanticide. This behaviour makes females available for reproduction more quickly, returning more quickly to a period of oestrus (when fertilization can take place). Otherwise the male must wait at least three years until the lioness has completely weaned her previous litter. From a genetic point of view, the lion has to perpetuate his genes and therefore cannot afford this delay, especially since the energy blow generated to take care of another lion's young is of no biological interest to him.
Male African lion.
To communicate with each other 🗣, lions use many means such as vocal communication made up of growls, whistles, moans, rumbles, mews and roars that can be heard within a 5 km radius, and body language, as rich as it is varied, with for example their greeting ceremonial: They nod their heads and keep their tails up and then turn their heads sideways. They may also rub their heads against the individual they wish to greet. Licking is a sign of affection. As for the ears, pressed against their head, it is a sign of anger, as it is for their cousin the cat.
Lion's life expectancy.
In the wild, the lion's life expectancy is between 7 and 12 years for males and between 15 and 20 years for females.
The main threats to this royal animal are so-called "sport" hunting (at present, in South Africa, nearly 300 breeders raise more than 4,500 lions for this purpose), poaching, and the reduction of its habitat, which results in the sharing of its territory with humans and sometimes also leads to conflicts between lion and human.
Lion populations are highly concentrated since they are contained in parks or reserves, while other areas become unsuitable for their survival since they are cultivated by man. The problem of inbreeding therefore arises since the different populations, contained in these delimited areas, can no longer mix. The IUCN has classified the African lion as "vulnerable" on the Red List of Threatened Species due to the steady decline in the population of this species.
As for the Asian lion, the IUCN considers it to be "on the verge of extinction" with about 200 to 300 individuals. It has disappeared from almost all of its range and the last representatives are seriously threatened by the loss of their genetic heritage, again linked to a reduced range and low numbers of individuals remaining. This is why the Indian government has set up a reintroduction project in a sanctuary in the Gir region: the Kuno wildlife sanctuary.
"As long as lions do not have their own historians, hunting stories will continue to glorify the hunter. » African proverb.
Axelle - Lion Republic writer.