‘King of the Beasts’
Lions; majestic, powerful and extremely social, are the most widely recognised of the cat family. Size wise they lie second only to the Tiger and their official name is Panthera Leo. They used to range all over Europe, Africa and Asia, typically choosing a habitat of savanna grassland and open woodland. Now however, they are mainly found South of the Sahara in Africa although there is a small population of around 650 in India in the Gir National Park.
A pride of lions
Lions live in prides made up of related females. They have a territory which can range from 20 to 400 sq km depending upon the amount of game available. Each pride will have between 1 and usually 4 unrelated male lions who have become the dominant males of the pride and they will sire the cubs. Should a pride be taken over by another male or group of males then they will seek out the young cubs in order to kill them. This naturally brings the females into oestrus earlier than would otherwise have been the case and the new males can then sire their own cubs. If a pride is taken over by new males the females will do all they can to hide their cubs to stop the imposters from killing them. Females have a gestation period of 108 days and usually give birth to between 1 and 6 cubs. Prides can number from 4 to 37 although an average pride is made up of around 15 individuals.
Co operation between members increases the likelihood of a successful hunt.
Living as part of a pride has many advantages most noticeably when it comes to co-operation between members when hunting and raising cubs. Lions tend to hunt medium sized plains’ game – zebra and antelope but with the help of pride members much larger game like buffalo can be brought down.
Young male lions are expelled from the pride at around 3 years of age. Brothers often stay together and with their combined strength they will often manage to take over a pride. Groups of 2 to 4 males tend to be the most successful at keeping and maintaining a pride.
Typically, lions live to between 8 to 10 years although lions kept in captivity, without the dangers of life in the wild, can reach ages of 25 years and upwards.
Males, and more often than not brothers, will stay together in order to successfully fight and take over a pride of their own.
Lions usually end up hunting for 2 to 3 hours a day. They will gorge themselves on a kill and will often not eat again for a week after such a meal. Male lions can eat upwards of 34 kilos at a sitting. Although lions are extremely capable predators in their own right, they are not shy of stealing kills from hyena, cheetah or wild dog.
Pride life definitely has advantages when bringing up young.
Deborah Boyd-Moss IDEAS & THOUGHTS On behalf of PLANET EARTH