In this article, our team is going to tell you about the habitat of the Lion, its characteristics and amazing facts about it. First of all, you should know that they are the second largest cats in the world, after the tigers. Nicknamed the king, which is not necessarily accurate as seen in the article is the lion the king of animals ?, these royal felines once roamed Africa, Asia and Europe, but now only live in certain parts of Africa and India.
Globally, lions are active at night and stay in a variety of habitats, but they prefer grasslands, savannah, dense brush and open woodlands. In the past, they lived in large parts of Europe, Asia and Africa, but today they are mainly found in different parts of Africa south of the Sahara. Within the Gir National Park in India is a population of about 650 Asiatic lions under protection.
1) Characteristics of the Lion
The lion is truly an unusual animal, with a long muscular body, a large head and short legs. However, these characteristics vary depending on the sex, both in size and appearance. The dominant male’s main asset is his mane, which varies between individuals and populations. In some lions it is completely absent, in others it is shorter or completely full, covering the back of the head, neck and shoulders, continuing on the throat and chest to go along the belly.
Regarding the color, some lions have a very dark mane, almost black, giving a majestic appearance but this can vary in a rare way as in white lions. The mane makes the males appear large in order to intimidate enemies and attract the opposite sex.)
The size of an adult male reaches about 1.8 to 2.1 meters long without taking into account his tail. As for its height, the lion measures about 1.2 meters at the shoulder and reaches a weight between 170 and 250 kg. On the other hand, the lioness is smaller, reaching a length of about 1.5 meters, and a height of 0.9 to 1.1 meters at the shoulder, its weight varies between 120 and 180 kg. The fur of the lion has many shades, from buff yellow, orange brown or silver gray to dark brown, with a tuft at the end of the tail often darker than the fur.
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2) Lion Habitat and Distribution
In the past, during the Pleistocene, lions developed in North America as well as in Africa, within most of the Balkans, in Anatolia and in the Middle East up to India. Some studies suggest that the lion evolved in eastern and southern Africa, dividing into a number of subspecies such as the Barbary lion in North Africa, the American lion in North and Central America, the cave lion in Europe, the Asiatic lion in the Middle East and India.
About 10,000 years ago lions disappeared from North America, from the Balkans about 2,000 years ago and from Palestine during the Crusades. By the 21st century, their numbers have plummeted to about ten thousand, and those living outside national parks have lost their habitat to agriculture.
Lions are now listed as vulnerable by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) and several subspecies have not survived.
Today, the lion’s main home is in sub-Saharan Africa under the name of African lion, while the Asiatic lion is almost extinct, with a population of about 500 individuals remaining in India’s Gir National Park in the Kathiawar Peninsula.
Humans remain the major problem regarding the mortality of lion populations, especially herders. Despite these difficulties, lion populations are healthy in many African reserves and in Gir, and are a major tourist attraction. High lion population densities, however, can be a problem for local pastoralists.
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3) Lion Groups
Only lions live in groups, which are unique among all felines. Generally, members of a group spend the day in separate groups that join together to hunt or share a meal. A pride is made up of different generations of lionesses, some of which are related, and a smaller number of breeding males and their cubs.
A group starts with 4 members and goes up to 37, but the average size is 15 members. A zone is defined by each group which is defended against intruding lions, although there is an area where some overlap is allowed. The size of a territory can vary, this is defined by the abundance of prey, when a territory is endowed with a large number of prey this one can be only 20 km2. However, if the game becomes scarce, a territory can reach up to 400 km2.
Some females can be proud and use the same territory for decades, passing it on between them. To proclaim their territory lions roar and mark their territories with scent. Their distinctive roar is often emitted in the evening before a night of hunting and again before dawn. To proclaim their presence, males urinate on bushes, trees and the ground leaving a scent behind. In addition, their defecation and rubbing on bushes leave scent marks.
The creation of lion groups has different evolutionary explanations, the large size of their bodies and the high density of their main prey must make group life more efficient for the females. For example, groups of females hunt more efficiently and are better able to defend cubs from infanticidal males as well as adverse females. However, these factors are debated and not proven at this time.
4) the Lion Hunt
Lions hunt a wide variety of animals, from rodents and baboons to buffalo and hippos, but they mostly hunt medium to large hoofed mammals such as wildebeest, zebra and antelope. Lions have been known to prey on elephants and giraffes, but only if the individual is young or sick.
They simply eat all the meat they can find, including carrion as well as fresh meat they find or steal from hyenas, cheetahs or wild dogs. Most of the time it is the lionesses that hunt on the savannah, and the males generally take over their meals. Despite this, male lions have excellent hunting skills, and within certain areas they often hunt. Some males living in forested habitats spend less time with females and go hunting for their meals.
More than 40 kg of meat per day can be consumed by an adult male during a single meal allowing the lion to rest for a week. In an environment with abundant prey, males and females typically spend 21-22 hours per day resting, sleeping and hunting for 2-3 hours per day.
5) Reproduction and Life Cycle
Lions are polygamous and breed throughout the year, however females are usually restricted to one or two adult males in their group. When lions are in captivity, they often breed every year. However, in the wild they usually breed no more than once every two years. The female’s reproductive cycle is highly variable, they become receptive to mating during three to four days of this cycle.
During this period a couple usually copulates every 20-30 minutes, with up to 50 copulations per 24 hours. This stimulates ovulation in the female, and secures the paternity of the male. A gestation period averages 108 days and varies from one to six pups, frequently giving birth to two to four pups.
The newborns are helpless and blind with a thick coat decorated with dark spots that normally disappear with maturity. At the age of three months they can start following their mother and are weaned at six or seven months. They begin to participate in hunting at 11 months of age but cannot survive on their own until they are two years old. It is often surprising to know that lionesses are particularly inattentive mothers and often leave their cubs alone for up to 24 hours. In the wild, sexual maturity occurs at around three or four years of age.
Young lions are expelled from the group around the age of three to become nomadic and grow up to try to take over another group (after the age of five). However, it is not uncommon for adult males to remain nomadic throughout their lives. Mating is difficult for nomadic males, competition between male lions for territory and mating with females is fierce. Overall, large coalitions have a high number of surviving offspring.
If a new cohort of adult lions is able to take over a pride, they will seek to kill the young males sired by their predecessors. This has the effect of shortening the time before the cubs’ mothers are ready to mate again. The females try to prevent this by hiding or by directly defending their young. Lionesses are generally more successful in protecting older cubs, as they would leave the pride sooner. In the wild, wild lions rarely live longer than 8-10 years, mainly due to attacks from humans or other lions or the effects of kicking and gouging from targeted prey. In captivity, they can live 25 years or more.