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Tiger, Ranthambore Tiger Reserve

Lion

LionOf all the great cats, the lion has always held a supreme place in man's esteem and imagination. The lion has always been honored by man, crediting the regal beast with attributes he prizes most; nobility, courage, loyalty, combative skills and sexual prowess. This attribution applies to both sexes, for a lioness is a creature of sinuous beauty ,but the full-grown male, whose magnificent mane ranging in color from a rich golden brown to a deep blackish-brown, mark him as the veritable monarch of the plains. The legacy of the lion, King of Beasts, as the model throughout history is demonstrated by its appearance among the earliest drawings made by humans over 15,000 years ago.

Zoological name: Panthera leo

Species: Of the known sub-species of lion there seems to be an agreement on 2 as far as genetics go - Pantherinae Panthera leo leo - the African lion, and Pantherinae Panthera leo persica - the Asian lion. Regardless of the area of Africa a lion is found in today, their DNA analysis has shown them to be the same, whereas there is a difference between African and Asian. As of the time of this writing, the Barbary lion has never been tested and compared to these results, and may in fact be a third and distinct lion sub-specie.

Presence on the planet: The lion was once found from northern Africa through southwest Asia (extinct in most countries within past 150 years), west into Europe (extinct 2000 years ago) and east into India (relict population in Gir Forest only). Today, the majority of Africas lions can be found in east and southern Africa, with a small number in west Africa. Most of the lions today exist inside protected areas. No accurate number of how many lions exist in the wild has been reported, but guesstimates are between 30,000-100,000.
Lion
Habitat: Lion prides are often found in the open plains, but are known from nearly all habitats except deep desert and rainforest. Lions climb trees to rest and cool off, or sometimes to escape stampedes. During the day, lions rest by water holes or salt licks, but at night these places are usually reserved for hunting.

Physical appearance: Males range from 172 to 250 cm in body length, females from 158 to 192 cm. Tail length varies between 60 and 100 cm in length. Females are 45 to 68 kilograms lighter than the average-size male, but have an equal muscle mass. Males weigh between 150 and 260 kg while females weigh between 122 and 182 kg.Lions have a broad face, rounded ears, and a relatively short neck. Male lions have a mane, which varies in color. It usually is a silverish-grey or a yellowish-red. The darker the mane the older the lion. Captive lions are known to have longer and fuller manes than wild lions. The underside of males is a buff color, while the females' underside is whitish in color. Both sexes have sharp retractable claws on each paw and powerful shoulders, which they use to bring down their prey. Hinge-like jaws containing 5 centimeter canines also aid the lion in hunting and catching their prey.

Diet: Lions are very opportunistic eaters, and will take almost any prey ranging from small rodents to young rhinos, hippos and elephants. The majority of its prey, however, is medium to large ungulates, most notably zebra, wildebeest, impala, warthog, hartebeest and waterbuck. They will stay away from adult rhinos, hippos, elephants and even giraffes. The females do most of the hunting, and the male will come and join the females after the kill is made. The females will make way for the males and allow him to eat his fill first. Males will participate on a hunt when it is a particularly large prey item - like a water buffalo - where his size and strength is required to bring down such a large animal (although enough females can do it successfully on their own). Males must also hunt during their bachelor stages, when there are no females to take care of them.

Reproduction & Offspring: Lions will reproduce any time of the year, and all females of reproductive maturity will breed at the same time. This allows them to give birth in synchrony with each other, thereby sharing the suckling responsibilities. Any lactating female in a pride will suckle any cub that belongs to the pride. Lions give birth to 1-6 cubs after a gestation of 110 days. The cubs are born blind and helpless, and weigh approximately 2-4 pounds. Cub mortality is very high in lions, and less than half will survive their first year. Young males will leave their pride between 2-4 years if they can get away with staying that long, but sometimes they are forced out as early as 13-20 months. Females remain with their natal pride most of the time, although some will disperse and form new prides. While male lions are physically capable of reproducing at 30 months and females at 24 months, they do not generally successfully reproduce until pride membership has been firmly established.

Conservation status: Lions are generally considered problem animals whose existence is at odds with human settlements and cattle culture. Their scavenging behavior makes them highly susceptible to poisoned carcasses put out to eliminate predators. Where the wild prey is migratory, lions will predate on captive stock during the lean season, thus making the nuisance animals and easy targets for humans to eliminate.

Status: CITES: Appendix II. IUCN: Not listed.

Life span: 25-30 years

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