We’ve looked at the elephant, and now it’s the king of the jungle’s time to shine. The lion is so well-loved that Disney even made a film about it. Because of Lalibela’s vast numbers of plains game, we have an incredible number of free-roaming lions. However, African Lions are listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, putting them at high risk of extinction in the wild.
Here are a few things you might not have known about the lion:
1. The Darker the Mane, the Better
The male lion’s most defining factor is his incredible mane. The mane is caused by testosterone, which is why younger males have smaller manes. The mane is also used for intimidation amongst the males – the darker the mane the better. Because lions are colour-blind, they are more likely to be intimidated by a male with a darker mane, than one with a more golden colour. Females also prefer fuller, darker manes because they indicate stronger DNA.
2. They aren’t Unique to Africa
Lions were once found roaming throughout most of Africa as well as parts of Asia and Europe. 124 000 Years ago, there were even American lions. However, today they are found only in sub-Saharan Africa, except for a small population living in Gir Forest, India.
3. Lions Aren’t the Best Hunters
In a pride of lions, the females are responsible for the hunting (although the males will eat first). However, they are not the best hunters, with a less than 30% success rate for hunts.
4. Lions are Loud Talkers
A lion’s roar can be heard from up to 5 miles / 8km away. Cubs start vocalising from the moment they are born, but their first roar only occurs once they are a year old.
5. They are Family-Oriented
Lions are the only big cats that live in family units, known as prides. A typical pride has up to 3 males, 12 females and the cubs, and is matriarchal (headed up by a female). Some prides have had up to 40 lions! Lionesses in a pride are always related and will stay together as a group throughout their lives. Young males will leave the group at some point to start their own pride by taking over from another male.