The scientific name for a lion is panther Leo. Lions have captured our imagination for many years. They have been in zoos since as early as 1972. They were the principal characters in many movies like Madagascar and The Lion King. Madagascar was released in 2005 and centers around a lion named Alex who breaks out of the New York City zoo, where he has lived all his life, and ends up living in the wild in a jungle in Madagascar. Another movie that shows our infatuation with lions is the Lion King. It was released in 1994 and focuses on one of the protagonists named Simba. “In Swahili Simba means king, strong and aggressive” (Lion). Genetic studies show that lions originated in Africa and diversified into many different subspecies. There are about eight total subspecies of lions. Lions are mammals, which means they are warm blooded vertebrate, have hair or fur, give birth to live young, and feed their children through the secretion of milk from the female. A lion’s weight can range from 265-420 lbs. and it can be 6-7 ft. long (Sartore). A lion is considered to be a carnivore because they feed on the flesh of other animals. A lion is unique because of what they eat, where they live and what characteristics they have. According to the San Diego Zoo lions can live for 15 years in the wild and up to 30 inside zoos.
Lions eat antelopes, zebras, wildebeest and other large animals. They are known to eat elephants and giraffes but only under certain circumstances (Kays). Due to the fact that most of these animals are smaller than lions they are also faster. Because of this it is beneficial for lions to work in groups to hunt prey. When given the chance lions will hunt alone. They will steal kills from hyenas, wild dogs and other animals located in their hunting habitat (Kays). “Lions can smell nearby prey and estimate how long it was in the area” (More Information). Lions try to specifically hunt at night. All lions are nocturnal but the female lions, due to their smaller size, are more versatile, agile, and faster. They play different roles in the pride but the main one is hunting. “Female lions are the pride’s primary hunters” (Sartore). This keeps them in good health and safer within the group. Cubs do not hunt or help until they are at least a year old. The places lions live provide food for their prey.
Lions are placed all over the world in many different countries but primary habitat for lions include grasslands, woodlands or places that have enough space for hunting and covering(Lion). About two million six hundred thousand years ago lions were found across all of North America, Africa, and India (Kays). “Today they are found only in parts of sub-Saharan Africa, except for one very small population of Asian lions that survives in India's Gir Forest” (Sartore). According to National Geographic, lions usually live in groups of 15 or more. These groups are called prides. A pride can be as large as forty or as small as three depending on what type of lions are members and where the lions are located. Young male cubs may eventually leave their pride and take over one of their own. “Lions that do not live in prides are called nomads and they range far and wide while following migrating herds of large game”(Lion).
A lion is considered to be a well-muscled cat with sharp teeth, a long body and a large head (Kays). Adult male lions are much larger than female and only male lions have manes. A mane is the long hair surrounding the head of the lion. “The color, size, and abundance of the mane all vary among individuals and with age” (Lion). The mane serves many purposes. It protects the lion’s neck in fights, intimidates male rivals and it also makes the male lion more attractive to the female lions. A lion’s roar is used as a form of identification and communication. The adult male roar can be heard up to 8000 meters away. “Males are able to roar when they are about a year old, and females can roar a few months later” (Lion). Both male and female lions are good climbers and can lie around for 21 out of the 24 hours a day.
According to the San Diego Zoo, it is estimated that there are 6000 to 10000 African lions in Africa. The population there has been reduced by half since the early 1950s (Basic Facts). There are 400-460 Asian lions left. Conservationists are concerned about the population of lions in the wild because of issues such as hunting, diseases and loss of habitat. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the species as vulnerable, and several subspecies have died out (Kays). Lions are an important part of the ecosystem. They increase biodiversity in ways we cannot begin to understand. Although lions have a typical ferocious stereotype they have become such a fascinating creature to us because of what they eat, where they live, and certain characteristics they have. Lions are incorporated into everyday life. They are used as metaphors to represent teams, countries and many other things (More Information).