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The African Lion

The African Lion is probably one of the most well known of the Big Five in Africa and one of the four large cats in the panthera genus. With males growing up to 550 pounds or more, they rival tigers for the title of largest cats in the world. Most African lions live in the savannahs and grasslands of subsaharan Africa. There are a few species still living in parts of Asia and India, while those that lived in northern Africa and southwestern Asia have been extinct for hundreds of years.
African lion eating
Up until about 10,000 years ago, the lion’s ancestors were among the most widespread large mammals, living in Africa, Eurasia and even in the Americas from the Yukon to Peru. The African Lion in the vulnerable species category. Their numbers have rapidly declined over the last twenty years or so, with losses from thirty to fifty percent. This can be attributed to poaching and other human activity as well as natural causes. Those that are living in national parks or private game preserves are much better protected than those that reside outside these areas.

A wild lion can live as long as 14 years, with an average lifespan of around ten years, more than twenty in captivity. Males in the wild rarely live longer than ten years, mostly because of the continual fighting with other males for dominance and mates. Compare to other wild cats, lions are quite sociable, living in prides consisting of sister females, cubs and a few adult males. These prides can consist of 15 or more individuals. A single male or even a small group of a few males will be in a pride for a certain period of time, around three years or so, or when another group takes over and drives the leaders out.

Lions are quite social with the other members of their pride. They can be very affectionate, enjoy head rubbing, licking each other and purring to one another. The males, being very territorial, will roar and use scent markers to show their domain to other male lions and can be very aggressive. Both sexes can roar, with the sound able to carry up to five miles away in some instances.
Females are the hunters mostly and hunt together. They are known to hunt many different grazing animals, but are also scavengers if the opportunity arises. Normally they don’t hunt humans, but some have been known to. One serious lion/human problem was depicted in the movie ‘The Ghost And The Darkness,’ loosely based on true events.

Male African lions are of course recognized the most by their large manes. As mentioned earlier they are larger than females. Females while having a lot of the same facial characteristics, are smaller and lack the mane of male lions. They are mostly tawny in color, but can vary from silvery yellow to reddish brown. Their bellies are usually lighter and females may have an almost white belly. Males have manes that are yellow to black. Sometimes, the leopard spots that the cubs have can still be seen in adults.
Male Lion
Lions have been widely known and shown as majestic symbols in many human cultures, from ancient times to the present. This is perhaps why they were hunted so much in the early part of the last century.

While the Big Five today stands for the five most sought after animals in Africa to see, back in the day, it stood instead for the five most dangerous animals for big game hunters to pursue. They have varied domains and range from Namibia, Zimababwe, Mozambique and South Africa. If you want to have the best chances of seeing prides of lions, Kalahari Gemsbok National Park, and Kruger National Park have an abundance of these animals with Kruger having around 2,500 lions living in the park itself. Some of the private game preserves that also offer lions are Mala Mala, Sabi Sabi and the Makalali Game preserve, to name a few.

You can find out an abundance of information about lions online. Most want to know how and where to see lions. Lion Dog African Safaris has a number of different packages available for people on a budget, families and even honeymoon packages. Thomson Safaris is another great safari company with many private and family packages available. These are just a few of the many different animal tours and safari packages that are available.

Some people want to tour and safari on their own and this is a great way to see the sights in many national parks and game preserves all over South Africa. Kruger National Park, Kalahari Gemsbok National Park and many others offer these self guided tours. Each park is different and has its own rules and regulations, so it is important to check with each park about this.

As a general rule, there are some things you need to know about viewing African lions or any other large wild animal while visiting Africa. Never get close to any wild animal; they are unpredictable and can attack at any moment. If you decide to go with an organized tour or safari, listen carefully to the instructions of your guide. While these tours accept just about anybody, it is important to understand that many require hikes, climbing and even running at times. Make sure that you or members of your family are physically able to handle these challenges.