The African Lion is believed to once roam all of the African Continent. However, with time, the animals have become extinct in North African and some parts of Western Africa. Now Lions live in countries like Kenya, Namibia, South Africa and Botswana to name a few. The African Lion is a fascinating animal that is facing extinction thanks to human-wildlife conflict. In Kenya, Lions can be found in some National Parks and Reserves including Tsavo and Amboseli. The animal orphanage is also home to some orphaned and endangered Lions.
The African lion is the largest of the lions with the largest individual weighing up to half a tonne in weight. However, the average lion weighs between 150 and 200 kilograms. The male African lion is evidently larger and longer than the female.
The male African lion has a dark brown mane growing around its head. The fur of the African lin varies depending on the area they live in. Lions in hotter regions are found to have lighter coats as opposed to those living in cooler, more humid regions. The African lion has a hidden fifth claw on each of their front paws that acts as a thumb when handling prey.
The African Lions are believed to be the only social cats, living in large families called prides. Depending on the population of the lions in an area, the pride can have as many as 25 members. In such a large setting the adult males will be between 1-5 and the rest will vary between adult females and mixed cubs. All females in a pride are related and will most likely live in the family forever, while the male will eventually move to find other prides to join. Female African Lions do the hunting which usually occurs at night while the male lions take care of the pride.
The African lions mate all through the year and will bear 1-6 cubs after a gestation period of 110 days. Some of the cubs will not survive however since they are the most vulnerable members of the group. They may end up being killed by hyenas and jackals especially during hunger seasons. An African Lion will live between 10 and 15 years in the wild and up to 30 in captivity. Interesting enough, a male lion can start mating as early as 2 years of age.
All African Lions are carnivorous and usually feed on large mammals such as wildebeest, antelope, zebra and sometimes buffalo. However, for the African lions living in desert areas such as the Kalahari desert, mice and birds and desert goats end up being the only available options. Lions can go up to 3 days without food but will compensate for this whenever they eat. Water is also an important part of their diet.
Threats and Conservation
The African lion is believed to be king of the jungle yet it is at the brink of extinction. There are about 2000 individuals alive and this is a worrying number. The lions are mostly hunted and killed by humans who are trophy hunters, those encroaching the lions’ habitats and those that view lions as threats to their lives. Lions have come under the protection of the Kenya Wildlife Service who have to take time to teach locals on how to co-exist and respect the wildlife. There are several lion reserves and projects including the Ewaso Lions and Meru Lions Project which have dedicated themselves in keeping the fast decreasing population of African lions safe and alive,