An African lioness crouches down into position, eyeing the unsuspecting impala. Four of her pride mates—all female—spread around her in a loose horseshoe, their attention focused on the leader. The lioness gives a signal, imperceptible to human senses. She charges. Though the impala has skills of its own, and could conceivably outmaneuver one lion, it can’t escape the pride.
And therein lies the power of the mighty lion.
Most cats are ; loners, but lions have maintained their dominance of the African animal kingdom by diverging from the solitary life: They’ve learned there is safety, and power, in numbers. The core of the pride is a group of related females, as many as a dozen. They help each other, fending off Strangers, and sometimes even nursing one another’s cubs. They occupy territories that can be nearly as large as the city of Los Angeles, passed down from one generation of lionesses to the next.
“You simply cannot miss a male lion, with flowing locks circling its massive face. Male lions are the only cats with manes, which range from golden yellow, their bodies, to a reddish-auburn color to black. A darker, longer mane indicates health, age, and Strength, and makes the male more desirable as a mate and more feared as a competitor.
Larger prides occupy choice spots—most often near rivers, where trees provide shade and cover for ambushes, and where potential prey come to drink. Big prides also have a better chance of successfully defending their territory. And protecting the realm is the fundamental goal of the cat kings.
The first line of defense is the roar. It can travel is far as five miles and warns against occupied territory. Lions can count, and will calculate the number of individuals in a potentially threatening group. weighing the odds of an attack. They also distinguish individuals, recognizing whether the voice is from an enemy or a friend.
Few creatures are foolish enough to take on a lion; the cat can take down a Cape buffalo on a good day. But when a pride’s territory abuts villages, the cats may prey on domestic livestock. Farmers and ranchers lose food and income—even children tending flocks—and retaliate by shooting or poisoning the killers. Even the king of cats is vulnerable to man.
On safari, prides are usually found collapsed in a big, cuddly heap in the shade. If not hunted, lions have nothing to tear, and sleep most of the day These hours of rest allow them to store up energy for sudden battle, their readiness essential for the task of defending their turf .
Size: Shoulder height 120cm; length 250cm to 300cm, Including 100cm tail; weight up to 260kg (male), 180kg (female).
Distribution: Largely confined to protected areas but present in all savanna and woodland parks.
Status: Common where it occurs; mainly nocturnal but easy to see during the day.