Did You Know – Lion

Check out the wildlife factsheet below! This week is the Lion, and it is on two pages!


Lion Scientific name: Panthera leo  - Description: Largest African Carnivore. Lions are social cats and typically spend 20-21 hours a day resting. Most active early in the evening and late at night.   - Male/female: Avg height 110cm (females) 120 (males). Short coat, males have manes. Juveniles are spotted with grayish coats (adult colour at 3 months). - Activity: Lions typically spend 20-21 hours a day resting. Most active early in the evening and late at night. - Hunting: Main hunters are usually the lionesses, but will scavenge if their is a kill available. Males will follow behind rushing to join the lionesses once the prey has been caught. Lions can kill prey up to 4 times their size, on ocassion even animals over 1000 kilos can be brought down, larger prey are usually brought down in co-operative hunting. Males are slower than females but their larger size means that they are more likely to tackle large prey. Lions share food to an extent, if prey is small or scarce smaller and weaker animals will miss out, even mothers will not share with their cubs until they have eaten enough. - Killing technique: Small game such as impala is usually brought down by a slap to the rear, tripping, or grasping with both paws. Larger prey is usually brought down by the full weight of the lion to slow down and over-balance the prey. For additional leverage the lion can grip the neck of the prey (shoulders/ back can also be used) to protect themselves from horns and to an extent the hooves of the prey. - Social Structure: Lions are gregarious and they live within in a matriarchal society. This society offers communal care of those within its pride - including communal suckling of cubs. Males form coalitions (usually with littermates) to ensure that they can secure territory when they leave the pride. - Breeding: Gestation 102 days. Lionesses usually produce cubs every 2 years. When a new male takes over the pride one of the first acts is to kill all the cubs below one year of age. Some lionesses may be wounded or even killed for protecting their cubs. After the loss of her cubs a female is able to mate again within a few weeks, however she is unable to become pregnant for around 134 days after losing her cubs due to a takeover. It is thought that this is to protect the female should the new male desert the pride and allows a stronger male / coalition to take over. - Communication: Vocal; Roars, grunts, snarls, growls, meowing, hissing, humming, puffing, woofing, spitting and moaning. Smell: Spraying (urine), clawing, scuffing, urine-testing. Tactile: Licking, head-rubbing, greeting ceremony. - Greeting ceremony: There is a special greeting ceremony that allows lions to show another Lion that they belong in the pride and 'come in peace'. Here is how to do it: on approach moan softly, rub heads together, then sides together with your tail raised high (if you can manage it, drape your tail over the other lions back). Then lean against eachother, as hard as you can, it doesn't matter if you fall over the other one. Greetings occur between females and cubs and between adult females. Females and cubs will sometimes try to rub the pride males who may accept the greeting but save their own greetings for other males in their coalition. Greetings seem to work upon a hierarchy and may be a form of appeasement from a lesser individual. - Did You Know: Female lion cubs never lose their playfulness where as males over 3 years rarely join in the games. Lions are very good swimmers, but HATE water! Lion claws are sheathed like your cat at home. Lions drink water regularly when they can, but they can go without water for long periods of time - some Lions in the Kalahari have been spotted eating samma melons and gemsbok cucumbers when thirsty.

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