Lion (leo panthera)
A male lion measures about 1.2 m at the shoulders, with a weight that can exceed 200 kg. Females are smaller with a mass of 130 kg. Lions are a yellowish-brown in colour, varying to a light yellow-brown, and their underparts are whitish. Young lions characteristically have spots and rosettes on their underparts which do not fade on females. Males have long, sand-coloured manes on top of their heads and at the sides of their faces. At times, a mane can become almost black in colour.
Lionesses usually hunt as a pack for the pride. Lions prey on large animals such as the wildebeest, zebra, gemsbok, buffalo and even giraffe. When the opportunity arises they will catch smaller prey like impala, steenbok, and porcupine.
After a gestation period of 110 days, one to four cubs are born in South Africa. Mothers hide their cubs for up to six weeks after birth, bringing them up in the pride’s crèche. After ten weeks cubs start eating meat. The young stay with the pride for up to three years, dependant on the pride’s organisational success.
A pride of lions comprises of 12 females who are related, their young and dominant males. These males form alliances of two to six members, and together keep watch over and protect the pride. Lions communicate by means of their well-known roars, but also by scent-marking their surroundings, facial expressions and body postures. In showing their large canine teeth, pulling back their ears to show the dark spot behind it, and twitching their tails irritably, they communicate aggression.
Where they are found
Lions can be seen in South Africa in their natural habitat, and they populate areas of sub-Saharan Africa.