CLCrow Photography Blog

Capturing Life At Its Best

The Lion

The Lion (Panthera Leo) is the second largest member of the cat family, second only to the tiger.  The word lion derives from Latin leo.  They currently exit in sub-saharan African and in Asia with a critically endangered remnant population in the Gir Forest National Park in India.  The lion has disappered from North Africa and Southwest Asia.

They generally live for 10-15 years in the wild and can live over 20 years in captivity.  They are unusually social compared to the other big cats.  They live in a Pride.  Related females and their offspring and a small group of males live together.  The females hunt together.

The male lion is easily recognizable due to his mane.

There are eight subspecies that are recognized today:

  • Asiatic Lion (Panthera leo persica) – About 300 exist in or near the Gir Forest in India.  Once widespread from Turkey across SW Asia to Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.
  • Barbary Lion (Panthera leo leo) – They are extinct due to excessive hunting.  There may be some in captivity in India. Last wild lion was killed in Morocco in 1922. One of the largest subspecies.  Ranged from Morocco to Egypt.
  • West African Lion (Panthera leo senegatensis) – Found in West African from Senegal to Nigeria.
  • Northeast Congo Lion (Panthera leo azandica) – Found in northeastern part of Congo.
  • East African or Massi Lion (Panthera leo nubica) – Found from Ethiopia and Kenya to Tanzania and Mozambique.
  • Southwest African or Katanga Lion (Panthera leo bleyenberghi) – Found in Southwest Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Angola, Zaire, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
  • Southeast African Lion (Panthera leop krugeri) – Transvaal region of Southeast Africa including Kruger National Forest.
  • Cape Lion (Panthera leo melanchaita) – Extinct in wild around 1860.
  • East Africa or Tsavo Lion (Panthera leo nubica) – Found from Kenya to Tsava National Forest.

The lion is the tallest at shoulder of all the felines. Their skulls are similar to that of a tiger though the frontal region is more depressed and flattened and they have broader nasal openings.  The lion color is light buff to yellowish, reddish, or dark brown.  Their underparts are lighter and both the male and the female have black tuft of hair at the end of their tails.  Lion cubs are born with spots that fade when they get older but may still be seen on their legs.  The male lion’s mane is a distinct feature, unique only to them.

Lions do not mate at a specific time of year.  Gestation period is 110 days.  One to four cubs are born in a litter in a secluded den.  Female lion hunts by herself when cubs are still helpless.  Cubs are born blind, their eyes open about a week after birth.  They are walking about 2-3 weeks after birth.  The mother does not reintegrate herself back into the pride until the cubs are about 6-8 weeks old.  As much as 80% cubs will die before they reach age 2.

It is estimated that there has been a 30-50% decline of the lion population over the past 20 years.  Something needs to be done before they are totally gone from the wild.

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June 3, 2010 - Posted by | Wildlife | , ,

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