Voted One of the Nation's Top 5 Zoos for Kids!

African Lion

Panthera leo

African Lion

Southern Sahara to southern Africa, excluding Congo rain forest belt.

Sub-Saharan Africa in grasslands and semi-arid plains

Male: Length: 5.5-8 ft; Height: 4 ft at the shoulder; Weight: 330-550 lbs
Female: Length: 4.5-5.5 ft; Height: 3.5 ft at the shoulder; Weight: 265-395 lbs

Young (# and name: foal, calf, cub, etc.):
2-4 cubs

98 to 105 days

Diet (wild):
Carnivore: antelopes, gazelles, warthogs, smaller carnivores, and occasionally Cape buffalo, giraffe, and young elephants

Diet (zoo):
Carnivore diet

Life spans (wild):
Average 15 yrs

Life spans (captivity):
Up to 30 yrs

Status (common, threatened, endangered, etc.):
The lion is the only "big cat" (the roaring cats) not endangered at this time.

Threats (to the wild population):
poaching, habitat loss

Anatomy/Physiology (anything unique or interesting):
Both the sexes are tan in color to blend in with the grasses. The males have a mane to make them look bigger and to protect their necks in fights. They are extremely muscular, have sharp claws, and have binocular vision. All of these adaptations are for hunting. They also have loose belly skin which allows the lion to be kicked by prey with little chance of injury.

Social/Family units:
Lions are the only truly social cat species, and usually every female in a pride of 5 to 37 individuals is closely related. Although only one out of four hunting events is successful, dominant males always eat first, lionesses next, and cubs scramble for scraps and leftovers.

Habits (unique to species/collection animals):
Females do the hunting and will often hunt in groups. They are smaller so the lioness is lighter and faster. They can also hide in the grass better without a big mane. Their soft paws enable them to walk quietly through the grass as they stalk their prey. Using their strong sense of smell lions can tell if prey is nearby.

Communication (vocalization, etc.):
An adult lion's roar can be heard up to five miles away and warns off intruders or reunites scattered pride members.

Defensive/Aggressive behavior:
The males are not constant members of a pride. They have to fight for possession of the pride. Males remain with a pride only as long as they are strong enough to defend their group from other males. Usually a male pair remains with a pride for three to six years before being driven away by other males.

Prey items:
Antelopes, gazelles, warthogs, smaller carnivores, and occasionally Cape buffalo, giraffe, and young elephants


Locomotion (type, top speeds, etc.):
Quadra pedal. Lions normally walk 2.4 miles per hour, and can run 28.8-35.4 miles per hour. They are also able to leap 36 feet.

Activity (diurnal, nocturnal):
Nocturnal and or crepuscular

Any interesting story/fact (species or collection animal):
Lions are the largest African carnivores and a hungry lion pride feeds on many animals that pass through or share its home range. As specialized communal predators, a pride's role includes keeping herbivore populations in balance with the resources available in their area of the plains. Thick mane helps male look bigger and protects the throat.