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Lion [Panthera leo]
A male Lion is 1.2m tall at the shoulders and has a mass of up to and over 200 Kg. Females are slightly smaller and weigh about 130 Kg. Their underparts are whitish with a general tawny to sandy tinge. Rosettes and spots are characteristic of young animals and females often retain these on their underparts. Only males have a long tawny mane on the sides of the face and on top of the head. In some individuals this mane can become almost black.
Lions prey mainly on large animals such as Zebra, Wildebeest, Buffalo, Gemsbok and even Giraffe. Smaller prey like Impala, Steenbok and even Porcupine are taken when the opportunity arises. The task of hunting is often left to the lionesses of the pride, which hunt as a team.
Lions are non-seasonal breeders, yet females of a pride often synchronize births. After a gestation period of 110 days, one to four cubs are born. Cubs start taking meat after ten weeks. Females suckle their own and one another's cubs for up to six months. After birth, cubs are hidden for six weeks after which mothers bring them to the pride's crèche. The young remain dependant on the organizational success of the pride for up to three years.
Prides consist of two to 12 related females and their young, and dominant males. Such males may form coalitions of two to six, and collectively hold tenure over prides. The roar of the Lion is an impressive sound and is perhaps the sound most associated with the African wild. Apart from roaring, Lions also communicate by scent-marking their surroundings, and even by their facial expressions and body postures. Lions display their aggression by showing their impressive canine teeth, retracting their ears and displaying the dark patch behind the ears, their tails twitching in irritation.
Where they are found
Sub-Saharan Africa is the last refuge of these supreme animals and South Africa offers some of the best opportunities to view lions in their natural habitat.