Timescale: 2.6 Million years ago – present
Range: Sub Saharan Africa and Asia (Gir Forest)
Lifespan in Wild: 10 – 14 years
Size: Adult Male 1.2m at Shoulder
Conservation Status: Vulnerable
Perhaps the most famous of the big cats, the Lion is the second largest member of Panthera after the Tiger. Whereas captive Lions can often live in excess of 20 years, adult males in the wild often live up to ten years less as the result of the savage fighting which takes place between males competing for a pride. Male Lions are easily distinguished from females by the presence of a large mane around the head which darkens with age.
Contrary to popular belief, Lions are expert scavengers and can obtain up to 50% of their food from scavenging, and are perhaps the most socialble of the big cats, living in prides of small numbers of adult males and many related females and offspring.
Lions spend the vast majority of their time resting and asleep, and are often only active for around four hours per day. Although this activity can occur at any time, Lions are often most active at night and dusk, helped by their excellent night vision and sense of smell. In Africa, Lions and Hyena’s often compete for food with Lions having been observed taking the kills of Hyena clans, whereas Hyenas often wait until Lions have finished feeding on a kill before moving in.
Although Lions were once found all over Africa, the Middle East and Europe, they are now experiencing a rapid decline with as much as 50% declines in populations over the last few decades. As of 2004, the estimated number of Lions living in the wild was between 16,000 and 47,000.