Lions are felines, which means that they are members of the same wider family as cats. Indeed, they are frequently referred to as “large cats” or something similar.
They live on plains and savanna in Africa and India, where the sun beats down on the grassland so that it fades, withers and turns yellow – just the colour of a lion, which helps to camouflage it, so that it can blend in with its surroundings and stay hidden.
Lions are predators, which means they hunt and kill other animals for their meat. The hunting is usually the task of the lioness, while the male lion provides protection from other lions.
They will generally hunt zebras, antelopes, impala, and even giraffes, hippos and young elephants. The lioness may need to attack quickly, before the prey can run away, and the lion can reach amazing speeds of up to 56 km/h (around 30 mph).
Lions generally live in family groups known as prides. This may be made up of between 7 and 10 animals.
A lioness will normally give birth to a litter of three cubs, although occasionally there may be as many as six. These are blind at birth, and remain so for the first two weeks of life, just like kittens!
Lifespan and Population
When a lion lives in the wild, forced to compete for food, and to fight with other lions, and survive in times when prey may be scarce, it has a life expectancy of around 15 years.
However, lions in captivity, that do not have to fight for their territory and have a ready food supply and medical attention may live up to 30 years – double their wild cousins!
The lion population is in decline, which means that there are fewer and fewer. In Africa, there are an estimated 39,000 lions, whereas in Asia the number stands at just 400.