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Scientific Name:
Panthera leo

Conservation Status:
Vulnerable

Where to see them:
Lion habitat, African Plains

Fun Facts:

A lion’s roar can be heard for a distance of up to five miles.

Although lions readily drink water when available, they are capable of obtaining all their moisture needs from their prey, and even from plants.

Lions can purr, but it is not very socially important for them. Unlike housecats, they can only make noise while exhaling.

Lion cubs born

African Lion

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Size
Males and females stand anywhere from three and half to four feet tall. Males grow to be longer than females; African lions are anywhere from five to eight feet long, with an additional two to three feet of tail. Adult male lions generally weigh between 300 and 500 pounds, and females generally weigh between 250 and 300 pounds.

Range
African lions formerly ranged from northern Africa to southwest Asia, west into Europe, and east into India. Due to population declines, their current range is sub-Saharan Africa.

Habitat
Grassy plains, savannas, open woodlands, thick bush, and scrubs

Lifestyle
Lions live in matriarchal prides with up to 40 individuals, most of which are related females and their offspring. A single male or sometimes two or three males will join the pride and stay for an indefinite amount of time (up to three years) until another male or group of males takes over. When a new male does take over a pride, they will kill any cubs in that pride. This will cause the females to go into estrus and breed within a few days to weeks (as opposed to breeding only once every two years if the cubs were allowed to survive). This way the new male can propagate his genes. Females tend to do the hunting in a pride. They are social hunters and will work together to take down large prey.

Food
In the wild, lions eat small animals, such as birds and reptiles, and larger animals like zebra, wildebeest, and antelope.

Life Cycle
Lions become sexually mature between 3 and 4 years of age. A female lion’s estrus cycle is approximately every 30 days, year-round. Lions have induced ovulation, which means the act of mating induces the female to ovulate. Dominant males father all cubs in a pride. When a lioness is in estrus, the male will stay with her constantly. Mating may only last less than a minute, but will occur every 15-30 minutes for several days until the cycle is over. Gestation is approximately 110 days long. Litter size ranges from two to four cubs. Cubs stay with the mother for approximately two years. Mothers nurse cubs until they are 7-9 months old, and cubs begin to hunt at about 11 months. Females often stay with the pride and help hunt for food or raise the new cubs. Males normally disperse once they grow large enough to compete with dominant males. These male lions will leave in search of a new pride to join. In order to become the dominant male of that pride, they will have to run off the existing dominant male and will kill the cubs and start their own bloodlines.

Some of My Neighbors
Zebra, wildebeest, hyenas, giraffe, rhino, meerkats, bongos

Population Status & Threats
Humans are the biggest threat to lions’ survival. Human population growth affects the lions in every way. Human encroachment into lion habitat, trophy hunting and the killing of nuisance animals are all problems. In addition, at least a thousand lions have died since the 1990’s due to the spread of canine distemper, thought to originate from dogs living in nearby villages.

Zoo Atlanta Conservation Efforts
Captive African lions are a species managed by the Species Survival Plan (SSP). SSPs strive to maintain genetically and demographically healthy captive populations. Zoo Atlanta actively participates in the Lion SSP and welcomed four lion cubs in 2014 and three cubs in 2008.