African Lion

Scientific Name: Panthera leo

Description

African lions are the largest and most powerful of the African carnivores. Male lions have tawny manes, which gradually grow darker with age; female lions do not have manes. The lion’s mane makes it appear larger and more impressive. Manes are thought to assist the male in attracting females at mating time as well as frightening off rival males. Cubs are camouflaged with a slightly spotted coat at birth and gradually turn a tawny color by the end of their first year.

Range

African lions were once found throughout the entire continent, and they have a broad tolerance of habitats. Currently, there are fragmented populations in western, northeastern, eastern and southern Africa. Optimal habitat is open grasslands with thick bush and scrub for cover when hunting and denning. They are able to virtually adapt to any habitat ranging from barren sub-desert to Savannah grasslands to open woodlands. Lions are incompatible with human populations and now occur only in parks, reserves and undeveloped areas.

Status in the Wild

An estimate of the number of lions in the wild is not available. It is obvious that lion populations are becoming increasingly fragmented, and only those populations in national parks and reserves are likely to survive. Lions which are found outside protected areas are generally viewed as problem or dangerous animals and are severely persecuted. The population of wild lions has decreased due to habitat alteration, disease, and the reduction of the lion’s natural ungulate prey density.

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