Lion: King of the Jungle
Lions have lost more than 90% of their historical range, are locally extinct in 26 African countries, and only occur in 27 of their original range countries. The population has crashed from potentially 200,000 lions 100 years ago, to around 20,000 lions today. Current trends suggest that lions will decline by a further 50% over the next two decades in West, Central, East, and Southern Africa.
Male lions are known for their luscious manes, but the mane of a lion has many purposes beyond vanity.
The mane of a male lion indicates its age and health, which helps the female pick a fit mate. Lions that have lush and dark manes enjoy longer bouts of reproduction.
Additionally, it protects their neck and head from injuries during fights.
The Eye of a Lion
Females leave their pride to give birth and usually return 4 to 8 weeks later. After birth, females bring the litter back to pride and raise the cubs communally. A cub can suckle from any female with milk. It will stay with the mother for up to 2 years. During this time, cubs learn hunting skills from adults and even practice playfully stalking and pouncing.
The tongue of a lion has sharp-pointed rasps, called papillae, which are used to scrape the meat off the bones of its prey. They usually prey on ungulates like buffalo, wildebeest, waterbuck, and antelopes, as well as giraffes, warthog, and zebra.
Males only take part in a hunt that involves a big animal such as a buffalo. Although their main role is to protect the pride from other lions and animals like hyenas.
A hunt is a fully strategized affair and females even have roles. Some play the role of 'centre' and others the role of 'wing', the wings chase the prey towards the centres. Once a hunt is successful, the males eat first and protect the kill from other lions. Once they have had their fill, others in the pride will eat.