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The Lion

Scientific name: Panthera leo

Until the late Pleistocene, which was about 10,000 years ago, the lion was the most widespread large land mammal after humans. They were found in most of Africa, much of Eurasia from western Europe to India, and in the Americas from the Yukon to Peru.

Today there are only 2 surviving species of lions: African and Asian. Though the latter is endangered with less than 300 alive in the wild in a reserve. Asiatic male lions have a less prominent mane. Both males and females have a belly skin fold that African lions do not have. There are 6 subspecies of African lions.

Interesting facts about Lions

  • Lionesses are more agile and faster than male lions. Both male and female lions roar.

  • Lions lie around for 21 hours a day.

  • Lions can go 5 to 6 days without drinking water.

So why are Lions the kings of the jungle?

Lions are the kings of the jungle because of their raw power and strength. Lions fear no other animals, however, like a king lions do have enemies. The lion's worst enemy is the hyena.

Hyenas eat the same food as lions, so the lions and the hyenas often come into conflict over food. The only other enemy the lions have is people. Unfortunately the beautiful fur of a lion is very valuable on black markets. Because of this the lion is in danger of poachers, and because of poachers, the lion is an endangered species. In fact humans are the only thing that lions have to fear. Unfortunately these poachers don't care if these lions become extinct, and extinct is forever. This means once lions are gone, they will never come back.

Like a king, lions also maintain order. A king maintains order by making laws and punishing those that don't abide. A lion maintains a balance by killing some animals. If there no lions, herds of antelope would overcrowd the savannas and destroy all the grass resources. Everything impacts something.

Kings are the most powerful people or rulers of a land. Perhaps this is why the lion is considered king, because it is control of the land it lives on and all the other animals that live on it.

Where to find Lions in Uganda

Lions live in grassy plains, savannas, open woodlands, dense bush, and scrubland. In Uganda they are fairly common in certain parts of Murchison Falls and Queen Elizabeth national parks. A healthy lion population survives in kidepo national park but they are no longer present in Lake Mburo. The size of their territories is dependent on the size of the pride and the availability of prey. The males’ job is to patrol, mark and guard the territory. They drive off other males, and, of course, mate with the females.

How to identify a Lion

Lion cubs weight about three pounds at birth. By age 2 they are good hunters. They are full grown at 5 to 6 years of age. A litter usually is 2 to 3 cubs. With some males exceeding 250 kg (550 lb) in weight, it is the second-largest living cat after the tiger.

Commonly Adult male lions weigh 330 to 500 pounds, females 265 to 400 pounds. Height is 3.5 feet (females) to 4 feet (males). Length 4 ½ to 8 ¼ feet, with the males at the higher end of the range.

Lions live for around 10–14 years in the wild, while in captivity they can live over 20 years. In the wild, males seldom live longer than ten years, as injuries sustained from continuous fighting with rival males greatly reduces their longevity.

What Lions Eat

Lions mainly hunt at night preying on medium to large herd animals. This includes antelope, zebra, giraffe, baby elephants, rhinos or buffalo. They also will eat rodents, reptiles, insects, and crocodiles. Lions will also steal prey that another animal such as a cheetah, leopard or hyena has killed.


The Lion is the only big cat that lives in social groups a.k.a prides consisting of 3 to 30 lions. The females are often related and share care of the cubs, including suckling. The lionesses do the majority of hunting with some driving prey towards an ambush of other waiting lionesses.

Even though they do little of the hunting, the males eat first, followed by the females, then the cubs.

When full grown, males leave their pride and search for another pride to join. They fight older or injured males to become part of the new pride. The loser has to leave. Young males often kill the cubs of the beaten male. This ensures that their own future offspring has a greater chance of survival.

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