Wednesday, February 13, 2013

African Lion

In the past we've learned about the now-extinct Barbary Lions, and the near-extinct Asiatic Lions. Today we're going to cover the African Lions-- a term that encompasses several different subspecies, including the two aforementioned types. Overall there are 6 extant African subspecies, and they can be found throughout the continent.

Lions are actually the only big cats in the world that live in groups-- the rest are solitary. These groups, called "prides" contain several related females, a handful of males, and their offspring. Young females will usually stay with their mother for life, while young males will eventually leave and try to take over their own pride. The sexes have their roles within the prides-- females are the primary hunters, while males guard the territory thanks to their large size and intimidating appearance. (The males also serve as babysitters while the females are hunting).

The females hunt cooperatively, working together to take down prey that is bother larger and faster than they are. Of course, they aren't above stealing the kills of other predators, and will happily take food from Hyenas   and other carnivores. Hunting is hard work, and takes a lot of energy to take down a Wildebeest. Because of that, they will sleep as long as 21 hours a day!

Did you know that a Lion's mane can tell you not only where they are form, but how successful they are? Manes differ in size and color across the subspecies, and the darker and thicker it is, the healthier the cat.

Overall, Lions are considered to be Vulnerable. They are doing better than many other big cats, are found in several protected areas, and have a successful captive breeding program. However, they are still hunted in many areas, and they are losing both their habitats and their once-abundant prey. The wild population is currently on the decline.

IUCN Status : Vulnerable
Location : Africa
Size : Length around 6ft (1.8m), Weight around 400lbs (181kg)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Mammalia -- Order : Carnivora
Family : Felidae -- Genus : Panthera -- Species : P. leo

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