In the past, lions were found from Greece, all the way through the Middle East and into Northern India. Now, however, they are generally confined to sub-Saharan Africa. Cats are known to be solitary animals, and most species of cat live out most of their lives alone. The lion, however, is an exception, and has developed a social system that is based on teamwork within the pride. The average pride of lions will consist of roughly 15 cats, centred around a group of related females. Generally, you'll get between 5 and 10 females, their young, and 2 or 3 males that are often brothers, or who grew up in the same pride.
Lions are generally a tawny yellow colour, but tend to be lighter when living in open, hot, and arid locations, and slightly darker when they live in dense, vegetative regions. Male lions have the very distinct characteristic of a long mane that grows around their neck, and down the upper back, while all off them have a horny spine on the end of their tails, surrounded by a tuft of fur.
Within any pride, it is generally down to the females to do most of the work with regards to hunting. The males job is to patrol the prides territory, and protect the group from outside threats, like other males. When a kill is made, the adult males will generally eat first, then the females will eat, and finally the younger lions will get their turn. This is a very specific social hierarchy present in all prides. They tend to hunt at night, or at dawn and dusk when it is cooler and they can stalk their prey more effectively.During the day they can usually be found fast asleep in some shade - they can spend over 20 hours a day asleep!
The way that lions hunt is based upon teamwork, and this allows them to take down much larger prey than they would be able to achieve on their own. Their diet consists of large prey like wildebeests, buffaloes, zebras, and even young elephants, hippos, rhinos, and giraffes. Along with these, smaller prey like warthogs, antelopes, tortoises, and even crocodiles are commonly on the menu. Lions are also scavengers, with roughly 50 per cent of the food of the Serengeti lions in Tanzania coming from kills already made by cheetahs, leopards, and hyenas.
Lions can be found all over the sub-Saharan areas of Africa, in places such as savannas, grasslands, woodlands, and dense bush. Due to their position at the top of the food chain, they have no natural enemy in the wild. Their only real threat comes from man, both through hunting and the reduction of their habitats through the spread of agriculture and grazing. In some tribes, killing a lion was a right of passage to manhood, but with their scarcity and change in values, this has largely died out.
Thankfully, however, lions are protected as much as possible by conversation groups. They are one of the biggest draws on safari and one of the Big 5 animals that everybody wishes to see. The Serengeti in Tanzania and the Masai Mara in Kenya - effectively one large area separated by the Mara River - is a famous place to see lions. In the northern Mara lives one of the most famous prides in the world - the Marsh Pride - who have been featured in many BBC, National Geographic and Disney productions.
To watch a video of lions on our Real Africa YouTube channel, please Click here.