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Lions used to populate most of the Eastern world, with distribution spanning from Europe throughout Asia. The only population remaining from their extensive northern range is the Asiatic lion, which is now restricted to the Gir forest in India. African lions are currently found in sub-Saharan Africa. They have been largely driven out of South Africa, with the exception of national parks. Lions are not picky when it comes to habitat; they are found in most areas of sub-Saharan Africa except for tropical rainforests and the Sahara desert.
Lions are a social animal, living in groups of 20 (sometimes more); these groups are called prides. Prides are usually comprised of related females and their offspring with several males. Male lions in a pride are often related; it isn’t uncommon to see brothers living together in a single pride. While female cubs will stay with the pride in which they were raised, male lions will leave to form their own pride. These takeovers are brutally violent and often include infanticide of the losing lions’ cubs.
Life expectancy of an African Lion in the wild is 15 to 18 years. They tend to live longer in captivity, with a life expectancy of 25 to 30 years.
African Lions are carnivores and one of the primary predators in Africa. The females are largely responsible for feeding their pride. They work together to stalk and eventually kill their prey. They hunt at night and prefer large animals such as antelope, zebra and wildebeest. Opportunistic hunters, they will also steal kills from other African predators and kill smaller animals if necessary.
The latest estimate suggests that the African lion population has decreased below 20,000 individuals.
A lion’s roar can carry for more than 30 miles. One of the most distinctive physical qualities of male lions, their manes, is not found on any of the other big cats. There is one population of male lions that do not have manes; found in Tsavo, Kenya. Scientists have yet to determine why they evolved without this characteristic feature. The African lion is considered one of the “Big Five”.
Why are they Endangered?
African Lions are threatened by myriad human activities; including hunting for trophies, encroachment and fragmentation of their habitat, and use in traditional medicine. Since they pose a threat to livestock, ranchers also often kill lions that get too close to their animals.