Conservation status: Vulnerable
<tr><th bgcolor=pink>Scientific classification
<tr><th bgcolor=pink>Binomial name
<tr><td align="center">Panthera leo
The Lion (Panthera leo) is a mammal of the family Felidae. The male lion, who is easily recognized by his mane, may weigh up to 250 kg (550 lb). Females are much smaller, weighing up to only 180 kg (400 lb). In the wild lions live for around 10–14 years, whilst in captivity they can live over 20. Lions are carnivores who live in family groups, called prides, consisting of related females, their cubs of both sexes, and an unrelated male who mates with the adult females. The females do the hunting for the pride while the males are largely occupied with maintaining the borders of their territory. Males are expelled from the pride when they reach maturity. When or if a male takes over a pride and ousts the previous lead male, the conqueror may kill any cubs left in the pride that are not his.
Despite being popularly known as the "king of the jungle", the lion is an animal of the open plains, and can be found throughout Africa. It is nevertheless a threatened species with significant populations being limited to national parks in Tanzania and South Africa.
There have been cases in the wild when lions often kill leopards, hyenas, cheetahs, and wild dogs, or their respective young, in order to avoid competition.
The last remnant of the Asiatic lion (subspecies Panthera leo persica), which in historical times ranged from Greece to India through Persia, lives in the Gir Forest of northwestern India. About 300 lions live in a 1412 km² (about 550 square miles) sanctuary in the state of Gujarat.
Lions had become extinct in Greece, their last European outpost, by 100 AD, but they survived in considerable numbers in the Middle East and North Africa until the early 20th century. The lions that used to live in North Africa, called Barbary lions are thought to have been a subspecies of lion, although to date it has not yet been tested enough to confirm this.
Lions are recurring symbols in the coat of arms of royalty and chivalry. Lions show up in the art of China, even though lions have never lived in China. No animal has been given more attention in art and literature. C.A.W. Guggisberg, in his book Simba, says the lion is referred to 130 times in the Bible. The lion can be found in stone age cave paintings.
Although they are not often heard of because they are rare, White Lions do exist. These spectacularly beautiful felines have made Timbavati, South Africa, semi-famous. There is a recessive gene in white lions that gives them their unusual color. This recessive gene is also what causes some tigers to be white; white tigers are not a specific kind of tiger. Many white tigers with this gene are bred for zoos and animal shows. White Lions have a great disadvantage when it comes to hunting. Their white color gives away a hiding place when the lion is trying to catch prey.
Lions in the wild
Lions eat mammals that are smaller than their size. They are predators with stealthy approach in order to gain food. Some of their natural enemies are mostly male lions who are seeking territory. Note that baby or young lions are called cubs.
Lions hibernate during the winter time.
Attacks on humans
Two lions having sexual intercourse in the Maasai Mara, Kenya
While any hungry lion will probably attack a human that wanders by, and most might take a swipe at an obviously weakened one, some (usually male) lions actually seem to seek out human prey. Some of the more publicized cases include the Tsavo Man-Eaters and the Mfuwe Man-Eater. (Consequently, both incidents have books written by the hunters who slew the lions.) In folklore, man-eating lions are sometimes considered demons.
The Mfuwe and Tsavo incidents did bear some striking similarities to each other. The lions in both the Tsavo and Mfuwe incidents were all larger than normal, and lacked manes and they seemed to suffer from tooth decay. Some have speculated that they might belong to an unclassified species of lion.
Cross-breeding with Tigers
Lions have also been known to breed with their close counterparts, tigers, while in captivity to create interesting mixes. These two new breeds are called Ligers and Tigons.
The Liger originates from mating a male lion and a female tiger. Because the growth inhibiting hormone present in the both the female lion and male tiger does not get passed down, these Ligers do not stop growing. They will grow constantly through their lifespan until their bodies cannot sustain their size anymore, reaching up to half a tonne. Ligers share some qualities of both their parents (spots and stripes) however they enjoy swimming, a purely tiger activity. Most ligers are sterile, however a few births have been recorded.
The Tigon is a cross between the female lion and the male tiger. Because both parents contain the growth inhibiting hormone, tigons are often very small, and can best be described as "house cat like" in appearance and size. Like ligers, most are sterile, and they all have both spots and stripes.
External links and references
- Lion/Tiger Encounter (http://www.lairweb.org.nz/tiger/conflict.html)