African Lion Facts

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One of the most sought-after safari experiences is coming across lions during a game drive, but far from being majestic displays of strength and hunting prowess, daylight lion sightings more often reveal big cats caught in unflattering poses as they catch up on their sleep.


Adaptations

Although a daily 20-hour nap may seem like chronic laziness it is actually a clever adaptation. As lions have few sweat glands, it is a wise move for them to lie low while the sun is at its highest, to prevent overheating.

If you want to see lions in action, the best time to go out looking for them is between dusk and dawn.

Lions are supremely adapted to their night-time hunting habits and their eyes are 6 times more sensitive to light than ours are - so they can see perfectly at night.

Drawing gender lines

Female lions do 95% of the hunting, yet eat only 5kg of meat a day compared to the male lion's requirement of 7kg per day, plus the males always eat first, hence the expression 'the lions share'.

One of Africa's iconic night-time sounds is the bloodcurdling roar of the mail lion which can at times seems unnervingly close, and it may be some comfort to remember that the sound of a lion roaring carries for up to 8km. Lions usually roar as a sign of dominance and to remind any would-be interlopers to stay out of their neighbourhood.

The lion family

If you are fortunate enough to catch lions during one of their rare bouts of daytime activity it can be fascinating to watch the social interaction between pride members, the playful ways of lion cubs are particularly delightful.

Prides usually consist of between 10 and 15 members, including sub-adult males, related lionesses, cubs and one alpha male. They are very tactile and will rub up against each other in submissive displays, rub heads and nuzzle each other, sometimes uttering a range of vocalisations from purr-like sounds to hissing and snarling.

Once found throughout Africa, Asia and Europe, lion populations have diminished considerably since their heyday, with most lions living in African nature reserves and a small population of about 400 Asiatic lions resident in India's Sasan-Gir National Park.

The African lion is listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and it has been predicted that unless we continue to preserve these amazing creatures they could be extinct by 2050.

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Thursday, 23 November 2017