South African lions live in sub-Saharan Africa excluding the Congo rainforest belt.
Lions live in a variety of habitat including rich grasslands, scrublands, arid woodlands, and semi-deserts.
- Males can exceed nine and a half feet (2.9 m) in length.
- Male lions weigh 330-530 pounds (149-239 kg); females weigh 270-400 pounds (122-180 kg).
- The lion stands over three feet (1 m) at the shoulder.
- Their fur is a pale sandy or tawny yellow.
- Adult males have a large, bushy mane of darker fur around their head and neck.
- Cubs have rosette spots which fade as they mature.
What Does It Eat?
In the wild: A variety of large prey including wildebeest, antelope, zebra, giraffe and warthog. They also steal kills from other predators.
At the zoo: Nebraska feline diet and bones.
What Eats It?
Lion cubs are killed by hyenas and male lions that are not pride members.
Lions are the most social of all cats. They are the only cats that live in large family groups called “prides” consisting of four to 12 related adult females with their offspring plus two to three unrelated adult males. Lions also hunt in groups using stalking and ambush techniques. Females do most of the hunting. All members of the pride share in the kill, with males eating first followed by females and then cubs. Males protect the females and cubs from other lions and hyenas.
Females are sexually mature at about two years, males at about three to four years. Mating can occur throughout the year. A litter of one to five cubs is born after a gestation of 100-119 days. Females rear their young together and will suckle cubs other than their own. Cubs nurse for six to eight months but begin eating meat by three months. Sub-adult males leave the pride at two to three years of age but females may stay with the same pride for their entire life. Males live alone or in coalitions of two to three lions. Mortality of cubs is high – up to 80% die before age two. Cubs eat last at a kill, so if food is scarce, they may starve. Also a new male taking over the pride will often kill existing cubs to induce females to mate with him and therefore populate the pride with his own cubs. Males generally stay with a pride only a few years before being forced out by other, stronger males. Lions have a life span of 15 years in the wild and up to 24 years in captivity.