Lions are the kings of animals for a reason

Almost all lions living in the wild are found in Africa. However, there’s a tiny group of them living somewhere else.

Out in the wild, there are two kinds of lions that scientists recognize. The first one is called the African lion (Panthera leo leo), which lives in Africa, specifically below the Sahara desert. The second one is known as the Asiatic lion (Panthera leo persica), and it only exists in a small group near Gir Forest National Park in western India. Interestingly, the wild lions in the western and central parts of Africa are more similar to these Asiatic lions in India than to the ones found in southern and eastern Africa.

Male lions can be quite hefty, weighing around 190 kilograms, which is almost as heavy as 30 stone. In comparison, females weigh approximately 126 kilograms, close to 20 stone. This weight and strength are crucial for them to successfully hunt big animals and protect their pride.

When lions are young, they have spots and rosettes on their sandy-colored fur. However, as they grow up, these markings usually vanish.

The impressive manes on male lions have a story to tell

As male lions age, many of them develop striking manes. These majestic manes can reach lengths of up to 16 centimeters and serve as a symbol of dominance. But interestingly, not every male lion sports a mane. In certain areas like Tsavo National Park in Kenya, you can find male lions without them, often referred to as “maneless”. Scientists think this adaptation might be due to the local climate, as having a mane could lead to less heat loss.

Lion babies, called cubs, grow up in a family group called a pride. This pride typically consists of mothers who are related to each other, along with their cubs. There’s also usually a male lion or a small bunch of males who protect the pride. The mothers all work together to raise the cubs, and interestingly, any cub can nurse from any mother who has milk.

Lions are incredibly flexible creatures and can survive in extremely arid regions like the Kalahari Desert. In such places, they primarily get their water from the animals they hunt. Surprisingly, they also know how to quench their thirst by drinking from plants like the Tsamma melon.

Lions have quite an appetite, as they can devour up to 40 kilograms of meat in just one sitting, which is roughly a quarter of their own body weight. They have specialized tongues equipped with sharp, pointed rasps called papillae, which they use to scrape every last bit of meat off the bones.

They sometimes hunt during storms

Lions prefer hunting at night because their eyes are well-adjusted to darkness, giving them a significant edge over their prey. However, they also venture out during storms. The loud noises, rain, and wind during storms make it difficult for prey to detect them, improving the lions’ chances of catching their meal. During these hunts, lionesses have designated roles. Some act as “centres”, while others serve as “wings”. The “wings” drive the prey towards the “centres”, aiding in the successful capture.

Among all cat species, lions stand out as the only ones known to roar in unison. This includes even the young cubs, who add their own mews to the chorus. Typically, this roaring session lasts for approximately 40 seconds. When lions gather in a group, known as a pride, they often roar together as a way to declare their territory. Their roars can carry for up to 5 miles, making sure other animals know whose turf they’re on.

Believe it or not, there might only be about 23,000 lions left roaming in the wild. When you compare that to the roughly 415,000 wild African elephants, it’s clear that lion populations are alarmingly small. Shockingly, lions have vanished from more than 90% of the places where they used to live historically.

Jaguars are also amazing animals, learn about them.

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