The African Lion: King of the African Bush

The lion is the only cat species where males and females look different from each other. This is known as “sexual dimorphism”. These big cats have strong, compact bodies with strong forelegs, sharp teeth, and jaws, which aid them in killing their prey. The African lion has a yellow-gold coat. Males are identified by their manes, which are blonde in colour with shades of black, brown, and sometimes even red. You are able to determine how old a male lion is by looking at his mane. The mane also contains other important information, such as age, hormones, and genetics.

african lions

The African lion is 4 to 6.5 feet, with a 25–40-inch tail. Their weight ranges from 260 to 420 pounds. Lion cubs are born with dark spots on their coats. As they grow older, these spots start to disappear, some of them only remaining on the adult lion’s belly. Both male and female lions are muscular, with round ears and heads. Although the male is the dominant figure, the female is an integral part of the pride.


Pride Behaviour

Lions are the only cats that live in families known as prides. The average pride consists of 15 or more lions, most of which are females. Lion prides live in hunting areas that are big enough to support each member, even when food and water are scarce. The number of lions in a pride fluctuate depending on how good the habitat is and whether there is an abundance of prey. Generally, lion populations are larger in wet grasslands with lots of game and smaller in the dry bush, where there is less prey.

cecil-and-his-pride-of-lions-Hwange-Malinda-Brown-Somalisa African Bush Camps Zimbabwe Safari

The most significant characteristics of the African lion depends on its responsibility in the pride. The lioness does most of the hard labour, including hunting. This may seem odd, but, the lioness is built to move faster. Their bodies are smaller and lighter, compared to the males in the pride, which means that they are able to kill prey at a faster pace. The lioness is also responsible for raising the young cubs and teaching them how to hunt. The male African lion’s core responsiibility is to provide protection to the pride.

Did you know male lions care for the cubs while the lioness goes to hunt?

According to wildlife specialists they’re quite hands on when it comes to caring for the cubs in the absence of their mother. They are well rewarded once the lioness’ return with their kill, often recieveing more food than any other member of the pride.

Hunting Behavior

Lions are able to hunt alone, but prefer hunting in groups. It is usually a group of lionesses who go out and hunt for the rest of the pride. As mentioned before, the lioness has a smaller, lighter body mass, making them faster than the males, especially when it comes to hunting. Lions are expert stalkers. They wait for the perfect time to pounce on their prey, knock them over or pull them down.

Did you know that lions kill their prey by suffocating them with a lethal clamping of their jaws around the neck of their prey?

 Another tactic they use is to break the necks of their of prey.

Once they have succesfully killed their prey, the stomach is usually the easiest point of entry to the carcass. This way, they also have access to the most nutritious parts of their prey, the liver and kidneys. Lions are naturally lethargic, but after feeding, they usually take a nap right next to their prey or a short distance away so they can still protect the carcass from other predators, like hyenas, jackals and vultures.


The African lion is known for its impressive agility despite its size and weight. Lions are the second-largest big cat species after the tiger, and they can weigh up to 550 pounds (250 kg) for males and 400 pounds (180 kg) for females. Despite their bulk, they are capable of running at speeds of up to 50 miles per hour (80 km/h) for short distances, making them one of the fastest land animals in the world.

In addition to their speed, lions are also extremely agile and can change direction quickly when chasing prey. They are able to leap distances of up to 36 feet (11 meters) in a single bound, making it easy for them to clear obstacles and catch prey. Their strong hind legs enable them to jump onto the backs of larger animals such as buffalo or giraffes to take them down.

Lions are also skilled climbers, and they can scale trees to escape danger or to rest in the shade. This is a unique ability among big cats, as most of them are not able to climb trees as easily as lions.

Overall, the African lion’s agility is a testament to its strength and adaptability, and it is one of the key factors that make it such an effective predator in its natural habitat.

A lion’s roar is the loudest of any big cat and can be heard up to 8 km away.

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Lions are known for being territorial animals that mark and defend their territories against other lions. In the wild, a lion’s territory can range from 20 to 400 square miles (50 to 1,000 square kilometers), depending on the availability of prey and water.

Lions usually live in prides, which are groups consisting of several females, their cubs, and a few males. The males in the pride are responsible for defending the territory against other male lions, and they will fiercely protect their pride and their offspring.

When a new group of lions tries to invade a pride’s territory, the resident males will usually engage in a confrontation with the intruders to defend their territory. These fights can be extremely violent, and often result in injuries or even death for one or more of the lions involved.

In addition to physical confrontation, lions also use scent marking to defend their territories. They will urinate or defecate on the boundaries of their territory to let other lions know that the area is occupied.

Overall, a lion’s territory is an important part of its survival strategy, as it provides a stable source of food, water, and shelter for the pride. The lion’s territorial behavior also ensures that other lions do not encroach on its resources, helping to prevent overuse and depletion of the available resources.

Theats to Survival

The African lion is currently facing a number of threats to its survival, both natural and human-induced. Here are some of the major threats:

  1. Habitat loss: As human populations grow and expand, lions are losing their natural habitat to agriculture, grazing, and development.
  2. Poaching: Lions are often targeted by poachers who hunt them for their body parts, which are used in traditional medicine.
  3. Trophy hunting: Although trophy hunting has been banned in some countries, it is still legal in many African countries, and lions are often hunted for sport.
  4. Retaliation killings: Lions sometimes prey on livestock, and in retaliation, farmers may kill them to protect their animals.
  5. Decline in prey populations: Lions rely on a healthy prey population for their survival, and as their prey populations decline, so does the lion population.
  6. Disease: Lions are susceptible to a number of diseases, such as feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and canine distemper, which can spread quickly through populations.
  7. Climate change: As the climate changes, it is altering the availability of water and prey in lion habitats, making it harder for them to survive.

Overall, the survival of the African lion is threatened by a combination of natural and human-induced factors. To ensure their survival, it is important to protect their habitats, crack down on poaching and trophy hunting, and work to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Conservation Efforts

On the 11th-13th of September 2019, the African Bush Camps Foundation conducted training for Human and Wildlife Co-existence Officers (Lion Guardians) in the Mola area, near Bumi Hills Safari Lodge. The training was facilitated by Liomba Mathe from WildCRU‘s Hwange Lion Research Unit.

lion and lionesses

The human-wildlife co-existence project, in partnership with Wildlif eConservation Action(WCA) and Bumi Hills Anti Poaching Unit (BHAPU), has been in full swing since January 2022.

The project has been actively focusing on these four components:

  • Lion incidents in the area
  • Kraal and heard assessments
  • Lion Boma initiative
  • Conservation clubs


What do lions eat?

Lions are carnivores, which means that meat is their primary source of nutrition. They often prey on buffalo, antelope, wildebeest, impala, and zebras. Lions have also been known to kill elephants, giraffes, and rhinos from time to time.

Where do lions live?

Almost all wild lions live in Africa, but there is a small group that lives in Asia. In the wild, there are two types of lions that have been officially named. The African lion, (Panthera leo leo), lives south of the Sahara desert in Africa.

What is a nittany lion?

A cougar or mountain lion is called  Nittany lion.  Up until 1880, mountain lions lived in the State College area in the United States. At this time, the last mountain lions in Pennsylvania were moved out of the state. Some people still say they have seen mountain lions, but this is very rare.

How much does a lion weigh?

A fully grown male lion weighs about 420 pounds. They are much bigger than female lions, who weigh about 280 pounds on average. A male lion has been said to weigh as much as 600 pounds, which is almost 200 pounds more than the average.

Can Lions Climb Trees?

Yes, lions are capable climbers and have been known to climb trees. While they are not as agile in trees as some other big cats like leopards, lions are strong and powerful enough to climb trees to escape danger, rest, or even hunt.

Climbing trees is not a common behavior for lions, but they will climb if they need to. Lions have been observed climbing trees to escape from buffalo or other predators, to rest in the shade, or to stalk prey. They are not as adept as leopards, which are known for their incredible climbing abilities, but they are still strong enough to climb trees that have branches sturdy enough to support their weight.

cecil-and-his-pride-of-lions-Hwange-Malinda-Brown-Somalisa African Bush Camps Zimbabwe Safari

In some areas, lions are known to climb trees more often than in others, depending on the availability of trees and the specific habitat. For example, lions in some parts of Africa have been observed climbing baobab trees, which have large, sturdy trunks and branches that are easy for lions to climb.

Overall, while climbing trees is not a common behavior for lions, they are certainly capable of doing so when the need arises.



How much do you know about the king of the jungle?