The English word lion derives from the Latin leōnem (nominative: leō) via the Anglo-Norman liun, borrowed from the ancient Greek λέων léōn. The Hebrew word לָבִיא lavi may also be related. The genus name Panthera is derived from the classical Latin ``panthēra'' and the ancient Greek πάνθηρ ``panther''.
Felis leo is the scientific name Carl Linnaeus used in 1758 to describe the lion in his book Systema Naturae. The genus name Panthera was named by Lorenz Oken in 1816. From the mid-18th century to the mid-20th century, 26 lion specimens were described and proposed as subspecies, 11 of which were accepted as valid in 2005. They were distinguished mainly by the size and color of the mane and skin.
= Subspecies =
Several lion-type specimens were described and proposed as subspecies in the 19th and 20th centuries, and by 2017, about a dozen species were recognized as valid taxa. Between 2008 and 2016, IUCN Red List assessors used only two subspecies names. leo for African lion populations, P. l. Persica for Asian lion populations. In 2017, the Cat Specialist Group's Cat Taxonomy Task Force revised the lion taxonomy and, based on the results of several phylogeographic studies of lion evolution, recognized the following two subspecies: P.l. leo (Linnaeus, 1758) - The designated lion subspecies includes the Asian lion, the locally extinct Barbary lion, and the western and northern lion populations of central Africa. Synonyms include P.l. persica (Meyer, 1826), P. l. senegalensis (Meyer, 1826), P. l. kamptzi (Matschie, 1900), and P. l. azandica (Allen, 1924). Several authors have called it the "northern lion" and "northern subspecies". P.l. melanochaita (Smith, 1842) - includes extinct populations of Cape lions and lions from regions of East and South Africa. Synonyms include P.l. Somaliensis (Noack 1891), P. Masaika (Neumann, 1900), P.l. Sabakiensis (Lönnberg, 1910), P. l. bleyenberghi (Lönnberg, 1914), P. l. Roosevelti (Heller, 1914), P. l. Nyanzae (Heller, 1914), P. l. s, 1948), and P. l. webbiensis (Zukowsky, 1964). Also known as the "southern subspecies" or "southern lion", there appears to be some overlap between the two groups in northern Central Africa. DNA analysis from a recent study indicates that Central African lions are derived from both northern and southern lions, as they are clustered with P. leo leo in mtDNA-based phylogenies. On the other hand, its genomic DNA shows a close relationship with P. leo melanochaita. Lion samples from some regions of the Ethiopian plateau are genetically clustered with those from Cameroon and Chad, while lions from other regions of Ethiopia are clustered with samples from East Africa. The researchers therefore assume that Ethiopia is the contact zone between the two subspecies. Genome-wide data of wild-born historical lion samples from Sudan showed that it clustered with P.l. Although it belongs to leo in the mtDNA-based phylogeny, it has a high affinity for P.l. Melanochaita. This result suggested that the taxonomic position of lions in Central Africa may need revision.
= Fossil records =
Other subspecies or sister species of the modern lion existed in prehistoric times. P.l. Sinhaleyus is a fossilized meat excavated in Sri Lanka thought to have belonged to a lion. It is believed to have gone extinct about 39,000 years ago. P. fossilis is larger than modern lions and lived in the Middle Pleistocene. Fragments have been unearthed in caves in England, Germany, Italy, and the Czech Republic. P. spelaea, or cave lion, lived in Eurasia and Beringia in the late Pleistocene. They became extinct due to climate warming and human expansion at least 11,900 years ago. Bone fragments unearthed in caves in Europe, northern Asia, Canada, and Alaska indicate that its range extended from Europe across Siberia and into western Alaska. It probably originated from P. fossilis, is genetically isolated, and differs significantly from modern lions from Africa and Eurasia. It is depicted in Paleolithic cave paintings, ivory carvings, and clay busts. P. atrochus, or American lion, inhabited the Americas from Canada to possibly Patagonia. It occurred about 370,000 years ago when a population of Beringian cave lions became isolated south of the Cordilla Ice Sheet. Edmonton fossils date back 11,355 ± 55 years.
= Evolution =
The Panthera lineage is estimated to have genetically diverged from a common feline ancestor about 9.32 to 4.47 million years ago to 11.75 to 970 million years ago. The geographical origin of this genus is probably northern Central Asia. Analyzes differ in the phylogenetic relationships of lions. It was thought to form a sister group with the jaguar (P. onca), which diverged from 3.46 to 1.22 million years ago, but was also thought to form a sister group with the leopard (P. pardus), which diverged from 3.1 to 1.95 million years ago to 4.32 to 200,000 years ago. Interbreeding between the ancestors of lions and snow leopards (P. uncia) probably continued until about 2.1 million years ago. Clades of lions and leopards have been distributed in the Palaearctic of Asia and Africa since at least the early Pliocene. The oldest recognizable lion fossils were found in Tanzania's Olduvai Gorge and are estimated to be up to 2 million years old. The lineage divergence of modern lions and cave lions is estimated to range from 529,000 to 392,000 years ago, based on mutation rates per generational time in modern lions. There is no evidence of gene flow between the two lineages, indicating that they do not share the same geographical region. The Eurasian and American cave lions became extinct at the end of the last ice age, leaving no mitochondrial descendants on other continents. Modern lions were probably widespread in Africa during the mid-Pleistocene, and began to diverge in sub-Saharan Africa during the late Pleistocene. When the equatorial rainforests expanded between 183,500 and 81,800 years ago, East and Southern African lion populations separated from West and North African populations. They probably shared a common ancestor between 98,000 and 52,000 years ago. The expansion of the Sahara between 83,100 and 26,600 years ago separated the West and North African lion populations. Lions migrated from West Africa to Central Africa as rainforests dwindled and created more open habitats. North African lions dispersed into southern Europe and Asia between 38,800 and 8,300 years ago. Lion extinctions in southern Europe, North Africa and the Middle East disrupted gene flow between Asian and African lion populations. Genetic evidence has revealed numerous mutations in lion samples from East and Southern Africa. This indicates that this group has a longer evolutionary history than the less genetically diverse lion samples from Asia, West Africa and Central Africa. Whole-genome-wide sequencing of lion samples showed that West African samples shared alleles with Southern African samples, while Central African samples shared alleles with Asian samples. This phenomenon likely indicates that central Africa became a lion's melting pot after lions isolated and migrated through the Nile basin corridor in the early Holocene.
= Hybrids =
Zoos have crossbred lions and tigers to create hybrids for the curiosity of visitors and for scientific purposes. Ligers are larger than lions and tigers, but most tigons are relatively small compared to their parents due to genetic interactions. A leopon is a hybrid between a lion and a leopard.
Lions are muscular, broad-chested cats with short, round heads, short necks, and rounded ears. Men have broad heads. Fur color varies from light tan to silvery-gray, yellow-red to dark brown. The color of the lower part is generally lighter. Newborn lions have dark spots that fade as the cubs reach adulthood, but faint spots are often still visible on the legs and abdomen. The tail of all lions ends in a dark, hairy tuft, and in some lions hides a stiff "barb" or "barb" about 5 mm (0.20 in) long that forms from the last fused part of the coccyx. The function of the spur is unknown. Tufts are not present at birth and develop around 5+1/2 months of age. Easily identifiable at 7 months of age. Its skull is very similar to that of a tiger, but it usually has a more concave and flattened frontal region, a slightly shorter postorbital region, and a wider nasal opening than the tiger. Due to the large variability of the skulls in these two species, the mandibular structure is usually the only reliable indicator of species. Skeletal muscle in lions accounts for 58.8% of their body weight, making them the highest percentage of muscle among mammals.
= Size =
Among cats, lions are the second largest after tigers. The size and weight of an adult lion varies depending on range and habitat. There are a few reports of larger-than-average individuals from Africa and India.
= Mane =
The male lion's mane is the most distinguishing feature of this species. It may have evolved about 320,000 to 190,000 years ago. It grows downwards and backwards and covers most of the head, neck, shoulders and chest. The mane is typically brownish with yellow, rusty and black hairs. They begin to grow when lions enter puberty and their testosterone levels increase, reaching full size around the age of four. In zoos in Europe and North America, cooler ambient temperatures can result in heavier manes. Asian lions usually have sparse manes than the average African lion. This feature probably evolved not to protect the neck, but to demonstrate adaptability of males to females. In fighting, including fighting maned females and adolescents, the neck is less targeted than the face, back and hind legs. Wounded lions begin to lose their manes, but there is further evidence supporting that manes are protective. Males with thicker manes appear to have higher reproductive success and are more likely to maintain their pride longer. They have higher testosterone and longer, thicker hair, but are also more vulnerable to heat stress. Unlike other cats, female lions consistently interact with multiple males at the same time. That's why manes didn't evolve in other male cats. Nearly all male lions in Penjari National Park either have no manes or have very short manes. Maneless lions have also been reported in Senegal, Dinder National Park in Sudan, and Tsavo East National Park in Kenya. Castrated lions often have little or no mane because the removal of the gonads suppresses testosterone production. Increased testosterone may be the cause of the maned lioness reported in northern Botswana.
= Colour variation =
White lions are a rare breed with a genetic disorder called leucism caused by a double recessive allele. It's not albino. The eyes and skin have normal pigmentation. White lions are occasionally encountered in and around the Timbavati Private Game Reserve, which borders Kruger National Park in eastern South Africa. White lions were removed from the wild in the 1970s, resulting in a decrease in the white lion gene pool. Nevertheless, between 2007 and 2015, 17 births were recorded at five prides. White lions are selected for breeding in captivity. They were reportedly bred in camps in South Africa for use as booty to be killed during canned food hunts.
Distribution and habitat
African lions are distributed throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Lions prefer grasslands and savannahs, scrubland adjacent to rivers, and open woodlands with bushes. They rarely invade closed forests. On Mount Elgon, lions have been recorded close to the snowline of Mount Kenya, up to an altitude of 3,600 m (11,800 ft). Savannas with annual precipitation of 300 to 1,500 mm (12 to 59 inches) make up the majority of the African lion's habitat, with an estimated maximum area of 3,390,821 km2 (1,309,203 sq miles), although remnant populations also exist in the tropical wet forests of West Africa and the montane forests of East Africa. Asian lions currently live only in and around Gir National Park in Gujarat, western India. Its habitat is a mixture of dry savannah forest and very dry deciduous scrubland.
= Historical range =
In Africa, the lion's range originally spanned much of the Central African rainforest and the Sahara Desert. In the 1960s, it became extinct in North Africa, except for southern Sudan. It used to live in areas of southern Europe and Asia where the climatic conditions were rich in prey. It was common in Greece, as reported by Herodotus in 480 BC. It was considered rare by 300 BC and was extinct by 100 AD. It existed in the Caucasus until the 10th century. It lived in Palestine until the Middle Ages and in Southwest Asia until the late 19th century. By the late 19th century, it was extinct in most of Turkey. The last living lion in Iran was sighted about 65 kilometers (40 miles) northwest of Dezful in 1942, while the lioness' carcass was found in 1944 on the banks of the Karun River in Khuzestan Province. It once ranged from Sindh and Punjab in Pakistan to Bengal and the Narmada River in central India.
Behaviour and ecology
Lions spend a lot of time resting. They are inactive for about 20 hours per day. Lions can be active at any time, but their activity usually peaks after dusk with a period of socializing, grooming and defecation. Intermittent activity continues until dawn, and hunting is most frequent at this time. They walk an average of two hours a day and spend 50 minutes eating.
= Group organisation =
Lions are the most social of all wild cats, living in groups of related individuals and their offspring. Such groups are called "prides". A group of male lions is called a "federation". Women form a stable social unit with pride and do not tolerate outside women. Most of the females remain as proud as they were born, but all males and some females disperse. An average pride consists of about 15 lions, including several adult females and up to four males and their cubs. Large prides of up to 30 individuals have been observed. The only exception to this pattern is the Tsavo Lion Pride, which always has only one adult male. The Pride functions as a fission-and-fusion society, with members divided into subgroups that continue to roar and contact. Nomadic lions are widespread and roam sporadically either in pairs or alone. Mating occurs more frequently among related males. Lions may change their lifestyle. Nomads can become inhabitants and vice versa. Interactions between prides and nomads tend to be hostile, but pride females in heat allow nomadic males to approach. Males lead a nomadic life for years before settling in the pride. A study conducted in the Serengeti National Park found that nomadic coalitions acquire settlement rights between the ages of 3.5 and 7.3 years. In Kruger National Park, dispersal male lions migrate more than 16 miles (25 kilometers) from their homeland to claim territory. A female lion approaches natural pride. Therefore, female lions in one region are more closely related to each other than male lions in the same region. The evolution of lion sociability is likely driven by both high population density and concentration of resources in savannah habitats. The greater your pride, the more quality territory you can defend. "Hotspots" are located near river confluences, where cats have better access to water, prey, and shelter (via vegetation). The area occupied by prides is called the "pride area" and the area occupied by nomads is called the "range". Males associated with pride patrol the frontier. Both males and females protect their pride from intruders, but male lions are more stocky and powerfully built, which makes them better suited for this purpose. Some individuals consistently lead the defense against intruders, while others fall behind. Lions tend to assume specific roles within their pride. Slow-moving individuals may provide other valuable services to the group. Alternatively, there may be rewards associated with being the leader in repelling intruders. These responses reflect the lioness' rank in pride. Men involved in pride must protect their relationship with pride from outside men who try to take it away. Pride does not appear to have a dominance hierarchy among individuals of one sex. Asian lion prides differ in group composition. Asian lion males are solitary or in company with up to three males and form a loose pride, while females are with up to 12 other females and form strong prides with their cubs. Female and male lions only have a relationship when they mate. Coalitions of males hold territory for longer periods than single lions. Males that mate in threes or fours show a pronounced hierarchy, with one male dominating the other and mating more frequently.
= Hunting and diet =
Lions are versatile carnivores and are considered both apex and keystone predators due to their wide range of prey. Its prey consists primarily of ungulates, especially alnus, zebras, African buffaloes, warthogs, gemsboks and giraffes. Chital and sambar deer are the most common wild prey in India, but domestic animals are a major contributor to lion kills outside of reserves. They usually avoid full-grown adult elephants, rhinos, hippos, and smaller prey such as dik-diks, hyraxes, hares, and monkeys. Rare prey includes porcupines and small reptiles. Lions kill other predators, but rarely eat them. Young lions first show stalking behavior around three months of age, but do not participate in hunting until almost one year of age, and begin hunting effectively when they are nearly two years old. A single lion can take down a zebra or wildebeest, but larger prey like buffalo or giraffe are more dangerous. Exceptionally, large prides have been observed in Chobe National Park, targeting African elephants up to 15 years of age, with victims including calves, juveniles, and even subadults. In a typical hunt, each lioness has an advantageous position in the herd, either chasing prey on its "wings" and attacking it, or moving slightly away from the center of the herd to catch prey that escapes the other lionesses. Pride-obsessed males usually do not participate in group hunting. However, some evidence suggests that men are just as successful as women. They are usually solitary hunters who ambush prey in small scrublands. They may also participate in hunting large, slow-moving prey such as water buffalo. and even hunt them themselves. In general, moderately sized hunting groups have higher success rates than lone females or larger groups. Lions are especially known for their stamina. For example, a lioness' heart accounts for only 0.57% of body weight, a male's heart is about 0.45% of body weight, while a hyena's heart accounts for almost 1% of body weight. Therefore, lions need to run quickly at speeds of about 30 to 37 miles per hour (48 to 59 kilometers per hour) for only a short time to get close to their prey before attacking. A 2018 study documented a lion running at a top speed of 74.1 km/h (46.0 miles). They take advantage of the visibility-reducing factor. Many kills take place near some form of cover or at night. Lion attacks are short and powerful. They try to catch their prey with quick lunges and final leaps. Usually, lions grab their buttocks and pull them down, squeezing their throats or muzzles and biting them. Lions typically consume prey at the hunting site, but may also drag larger prey into cover. They are particularly prone to fighting over killing males. Children suffer the most when food is scarce, but otherwise all the members of the pride go hungry, including the old and lame lions who can live on leftovers. Massive kills are shared more widely among Pride members. An adult lion needs an average of about 5 kg (11 pounds) of meat per day, while a male needs about 7 kg (15 pounds) of meat. Lions are voracious eaters, eating up to 30 kg (66 lbs) in one session. If it can't eat all its prey, it rests for a few hours before continuing. On hot days, the pride hides in the shade and is guarded by one or two males. Lions protect their prey from predators such as vultures and hyenas. Lions scavenge for carrion when they have the opportunity, and will scavenge animals that have died from natural causes, such as disease, or killed by other predators. Carrion-eating lions constantly watch for vultures circling, signifying animal death and distress. Most of the carrion that both hyenas and lions eat is killed by hyenas, not lions. Carrion is thought to make up the majority of a lion's diet.
= Predatory competition =
Lions and spotted hyenas occupy similar ecological niches, competing for prey and carrion. A review of data across several studies shows a dietary overlap of 58.6%. Although lions usually ignore hyenas unless they kill or harass them, hyenas tend to visibly respond to the presence of lions, whether they are fed or not. In the Ngorongoro Crater, lions live primarily on prey taken from hyenas, resulting in increased catch rates. In Botswana's Chobe National Park, the situation is reversed as hyenas frequently challenge lions, steal their prey and obtain food from 63% of all lion kills. When confronted with a kill, a hyena may move away or wait patiently 30 to 100 meters (98 to 328 feet) until the lion is finished. The hyena feeds with the lion and kills the lion forcibly. The two species attack each other for no apparent reason, even when food is not involved. Lions are thought to be responsible for up to 71% of hyena deaths in Etosha National Park. Hyenas have adapted by frequently attacking lions that enter their range. As lion populations declined in Kenya's Masai Mara National Reserve, spotted hyena populations increased rapidly. Lions dominate cheetahs and leopards, tending to steal their prey and kill their children and even adults when given the chance. Cheetahs often lose their prey to lions and other predators. A study of the Serengeti ecosystem found that at least 17 of the 125 cheetah cubs born between 1987 and 1990 were killed by lions. Cheetahs avoid competitors by hunting in different seasons and habitats. Leopards take refuge in trees, while lionesses sometimes climb to try to retrieve their prey. Lions likewise dominate the wild dogs of Africa, robbing prey and killing puppies and adult dogs. Areas with more lions have lower feral dog population densities. However, there have been some reports of old and wounded lions becoming prey to wild dogs. Nile crocodiles also kill and eat lions, as evidenced by the occasional lion's claws found in the crocodile's stomach.
= Reproduction and life cycle =
Most lionesses breed by the age of four. Lions don't mate at specific times, and females go into heat multiple times. Like other cats, the male lion's penis also has a spine that points backwards. When the penis is pulled out, the spines can scrape against the woman's vaginal walls, triggering ovulation. A lioness may mate with multiple males during the mating season. Male and female lions may participate in group homosexual and courtship activities. Males will also rub their heads together or roll together before mounting each other. The length of a lion's generation is about seven years. The average gestation period is about 110 days. Females give birth to one to four cubs in a secluded burrow. A burrow is a bush, reed bed, cave, or other protected area, usually located away from the pride. While the cub is still helpless, she stays relatively close to her den and often hunts alone. Lion cubs are born blind and open their eyes about seven days after birth. They weigh 2.6 to 4.6 lbs (1.2 to 2.1 kg) at birth, are almost helpless, begin crawling 1-2 days after birth, and begin walking around 3 weeks of age. To avoid accumulating odors that attract predators, lionesses move their cubs to new burrow locations several times a month, one by the scruff of the neck. Usually mother lions do not return themselves and their cubs to pride until the cubs are 6 to 8 weeks old. In some cases, introduction into pride life may occur sooner, especially if other lionesses have given birth around the same time. When first exposed to other prides, lion cubs lose confidence when confronted by adults other than their mother. However, they soon begin to immerse themselves in a life of pride and try to play by themselves or with adults. A lioness with cubs of her own is more likely to be tolerant of other lioness cubs than a lioness without cubs. Males have varying tolerances to bear cubs, with one male patiently allowing the cub to play with his tail or mane, while another male may growl to scare the cub away. Pride lionesses often synchronize their reproductive cycle with joint parenting and lactation, with cubs indiscriminately suckling from any or all of the lactating lionesses within the pride. Synchronized births are advantageous because cubs grow to about the same size, have equal chances of survival, and suckling cubs are not dominated by older cubs. Weaning takes place after 6-7 months. Male lions reach maturity at about three years of age, and at four to five years of age they can challenge and scare off another pride-bearing adult male. They age and begin to weaken between the ages of 10 and 15 at the latest. When one or more new males drive out the previous males involved in the pride, the winner often kills the existing young cubs. This is probably because females are not fertile and receptive until their offspring reach maturity or die. Females often fiercely defend their offspring from usurping males, but are seldom successful unless a proud group of three or four mothers join forces against the males. Children also die from starvation, abandonment, and predation by leopards, hyenas, and wild dogs. Male cubs are expelled from maternal pride when they reach maturity around the age of two or three, but some females may leave at two years of age. Juveniles can be driven out of both males and females when a new male lion takes over the pride.
= Health and mortality =
Lions can live 12 to 17 years. Adult lions have no predators, but there is evidence that most lions die violently from attacks by humans or other lions. Lions often severely injure other pride members they encounter in turf battles, or home pride members during a killing spree. Lame lions and cubs can become prey for hyenas and leopards, or trampled by buffaloes and elephants. A careless lion can get hurt when hunting prey. Ticks often infest lions' ears, neck and groin. Adults of several tapeworm species of the genus Taenia solium have been isolated from the gut of lions and ingested as larvae in the flesh of antelopes. The lions of the Ngorongoro Crater were hit by an outbreak of the stable fly (Stomoxys calcitrans) in 1962, resulting in emaciated lions covered in bloody, bare spots. The lion tried unsuccessfully to avoid the fly by climbing trees and burrowing into the hyena's den. Many died or emigrated, reducing the local population from 70 to 15. The most recent outbreak in 2001 killed six lions. Captive lions have been infected with canine distemper virus (CDV) since at least the mid-1970s. CDV is spread by domestic dogs and other carnivores. During the 1994 outbreak in Serengeti National Park, many lions developed neurological symptoms such as seizures. Several lions died of pneumonia and encephalitis during the outbreak. Feline immunodeficiency virus and lentivirus also affect captive lions.
= Communication =
When resting, lions socialize through a variety of behaviors. The expressive movements of animals are highly developed. The most common peaceful and tactile gestures are head rubbing and social licking, which have been compared to the role of conspecific grooming in primates. Rubbing the forehead, face, and neck against another lion appears to be a form of greeting and is common after an animal separates from another lion or after a fight or confrontation. Males tend to rub other males, and cubs and females tend to rub females. Social licking often goes hand in hand with head rubbing. Usually it is mutual and the recipient seems to express joy. The head and neck are the most commonly licked parts of the body. This behavior may have stemmed from practicality, as lions cannot lick these areas on their own. Lions have a variety of facial expressions and body postures that act as visual gestures. A common facial expression is the "grimacing" or Frehmen response, which lions do when sniffing chemical signals, and involves an open mouth with bared teeth, a raised muzzle, wrinkled nose and closed eyes, and relaxed ears. Lions also use chemical and visual markings. Males will spray and scrape the ground and objects within their territory. The lion's roar repertoire is wide. Changes in intensity and pitch seem to be central to communication. Most lion roars are variations of growls, growls, meows, and roars. Other sounds that occur include purring, puffing, and buzzing. A roar is used to advertise its presence. Lions often roar at night and can be heard from eight kilometers away. They tend to roar in a very characteristic way. It begins with a few deep, long roars at first, then turns into a series of short roars.
This lion is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. India's population is listed in CITES Annex I, and Africa's population is listed in CITES Annex II.
= In Africa =
Several large, well-managed reserves in Africa are home to large numbers of lions. Where wildlife tourism infrastructure is in place, cash income to park managers and local communities is a strong incentive for lion conservation. Most lions now live in eastern and southern Africa. Their numbers are declining rapidly, with an estimated 30-50% decline in the second half of the 20th century. Major causes of decline include disease and human intervention. A 1975 estimate estimated that lion numbers had halved since the 1950s to less than 200,000. African lion populations were estimated to range from 16,500 to 47,000 in the wild in 2002-2004. In the Republic of the Congo, the Ozala Cocoa National Park was considered home to lions in the 1990s. By 2014, no lions were recorded within the reserve, and the population is believed to be locally extinct. West African lion populations are isolated from Central African lion populations, with little or no exchange of breeding individuals. In 2015, the population was estimated to consist of approximately 400 animals, of which less than 250 were mature individuals. They live in three reserves within the region, mostly in one population of the WAP reserve complex shared by Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger. This population is listed as an endangered species. A field survey of the WAP ecosystem revealed that lion occupancy was lowest in W National Park and higher in areas with more permanent staffing and protection. Cameroon's Waza National Park has a population of about 14-21 lions as of 2009. In addition, it is estimated that there are between 50 and 150 lions in Burkina Faso's Early Singou ecosystem. In 2015, an adult male and female lion was spotted in Ghana's Mole National Park. It was the first sighting of a lion in the country in 39 years. That same year, up to 200 lions, previously thought to be extinct, were photographed in Ethiopia's Alatash National Park, near the Sudanese border. In 2005, a Lion Conservation Strategy was developed for West and Central Africa, or East and Southern Africa. This strategy aims to maintain suitable habitats, ensure adequate wild feeding grounds for lions, reduce factors that lead to further population fragmentation, and make lion-human coexistence sustainable. In areas where nomads keep livestock in improved pens, predation of livestock by lions is greatly reduced. Such measures contribute to the mitigation of human-lion conflicts.
= In Asia =
The final refuge for Asian lion populations is the 1,412-square-kilometer (545-square-mile) Gir National Park and surrounding areas in the Saurashtra or Katiawar Peninsular regions of Gujarat, India. The lion population has grown from about 180 in 1974 to about 400 in 2010. Geographic isolation can lead to inbreeding and reduced genetic diversity. Since 2008, Asian lions have been listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List. By 2015, 523 people lived in an area of 7,000 km2 (2,700 square miles) in Saurashtra. About 650 lions were recorded in the Asian Lion Census conducted in 2017. The presence of numerous human settlements near the national park has led to conflict between lions, locals and livestock. Some believe that the presence of lions is an advantage, as it can curb herbivore populations that damage crops. There were plans to establish a second independent Asian lion population at the Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary in Madhya Pradesh, but an Asian lion reintroduction project was unlikely to take place in 2017.
= Captive breeding =
Lions imported to Europe before the mid-19th century were probably Barbary lions from North Africa or Cape lions from South Africa. Another 11 animals kept at the Addis Ababa Zoo, believed to be Barbary lions, are descended from animals that belonged to Emperor Haile Selassie. Wildlink International, in partnership with the University of Oxford, has launched an ambitious International Barbary Lion Project aimed at identifying and breeding Barbary lions in captivity for eventual reintroduction into a national park in Morocco's Atlas Mountains. However, genetic analysis revealed that the lions captured at the Addis Ababa Zoo were closely related to wild lions in Chad and Cameroon, not Barbary lions. In 1982, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums launched a Species Survival Program to increase the survival chances of Asian lions. In 1987, most lions in North American zoos were found to be hybrids between African and Asian lions. Breeding programs should document the origin of participating animals to avoid loss of conservation value due to interbreeding of different subspecies. Captive breeding of lions was discontinued to eliminate individuals of unknown origin or pedigree. Wild-born lions were imported to American zoos from Africa between 1989 and 1995. In 1998, breeding continued within the framework of the African Lion Species Survival Plan. About 77% of captive lions registered in the International Species Information System in 2006 were of unknown origin. These animals may have carried genes that are extinct in the wild and thus may be important for the maintenance of overall genetic diversity in lions.
= In zoos and circuses =
Lions are part of a group of rare animals that have been the centerpiece of zoo exhibits since the late 18th century. Although many modern zoos are more selective in their exhibits, there are over 1,000 African lions and over 100 Asian lions in zoos and wildlife parks around the world. They are considered an ambassador species and are bred for tourism, education and conservation purposes. Lions can live over 20 years in captivity. For example, three sibling lions at the Honolulu Zoo lived to be 22 years old in 2007. The first European 'zoo' spread among aristocrats and royalty in the 13th century and was called Serario until the 17th century. At that time they came to be called zoos, an extension of curiosities. They spread from Renaissance France and Italy to the rest of Europe. In England, the harem tradition was less developed, but lions were kept in the harem of the Tower of London, founded by King John in the 13th century. This probably reared animals from an earlier menagerie which Henry I started in 1125 in his hunting lodge at Woodstock, Oxfordshire, where, according to William of Malmesbury, lions were kept. Lions were kept in cramped and poor conditions at the London Zoo until a larger lion house with a more spacious cage was built in the 1870s. Further changes occurred in the early 20th century, with Karl Hagenbeck designing concrete 'rocks', more open spaces, and enclosures with moats instead of iron bars to more closely resemble their natural habitat. Hagenbeck designed lion cages at both Melbourne Zoo and Taronga Zoo in Sydney. His designs were popular, but by the 1960s the use of bars and cages was prevalent in many zoos. In the late 20th century, more natural enclosures became larger, replacing low burrows with wire mesh and laminated glass, allowing visitors to get closer to the animals than ever before. Some attractions, such as the Cat Forest/Lion Overlook at the Oklahoma City Zoo, had their burrows set above the ground above the visitors. Lion taming has been practiced both in established circuses as well as in private acts such as Siegfried & Roy. The practice was started in the early 19th century by Frenchman Henri Martin and American Isaac van Amberg. Both toured extensively and their techniques were imitated by many followers. Van Amberg performed before Queen Victoria during a tour of England in 1838. Martin composed a pantomime titled "Les Lions de Mysore" ("The Lions of Mysore"), an idea Amberg immediately borrowed. These acts overshadowed the role of equestrianism as a central exhibit in circus shows and entered the public consciousness with film in the early 20th century. In terms of demonstrating man's superiority over animals, taming lions served a similar purpose as animal warfare in the last century. The ultimate proof of a tamer's domination and control over a lion is evidenced by placing the tamer's head in the lion's mouth. The now-iconic lion tamer chair was probably first used by American Clyde Beatty (1903-1965).
= Hunting and games =
Lion hunting has been practiced since ancient times and was often a royal tradition, meant to demonstrate the king's power over nature. Such hunting took place in a reserved area in front of the audience. Monarchs were accompanied by subordinates, and regulations were put in place to increase their safety and ease of killing. The earliest surviving record of lion hunting is an ancient Egyptian inscription from around 1380 B.C., in which Pharaoh Amenhotep III killed 102 lions "with his own arrows" in ten years. The Assyrian emperor Ashurbanipal depicted a lion hunt in a series of Assyrian palace reliefs. Known as the Lion Hunt of Ashurbanipal in 640 BC. Lion hunting was practiced during the Mughal Empire, and Emperor Jahangir is said to have excelled in this hunting. In ancient Rome, lions were kept by emperors for hunting, gladiatorial battles, and executions. The Maasai have traditionally considered killing lions a rite of passage. Historically, lions were hunted individually, but as lion populations have declined, elders encourage lone lion hunting. During the European colonization of Africa in the 19th century, lions were considered pests and lion skins sold for £1 each, encouraging hunting. The image of the heroic hunter chasing a lion was widely recreated for much of the century. Trophy hunting for lions in recent years has been controversial, especially after the lion Cecil was killed in mid-2015.
= Man-eating =
Lions don't usually hunt humans, but some lions (usually males) seem to target humans. One of his well-known cases is the Tsavo Man Eater. In 1898, 28 officially documented Ugandan railway construction workers were taken by lions over a period of nine months while building a bridge in Kenya. The hunter who killed the lion wrote a book detailing the predatory behavior of the animal. They were larger than normal, had no manes, and one appeared to be suffering from tooth decay. Frailty theories, including tooth decay, are not supported by all researchers. An analysis of the teeth and jaws of man-eating lions in museum collections suggests that while some incidents may be explained by dental caries, depletion of prey in human-dominated areas is a likely cause of lion predation on humans. A sick or injured animal may be more prone to cannibalism, but the behavior is neither uncommon nor necessarily anomalous. The cannibalistic tendencies of lions have been systematically investigated. Scientists from the United States and Tanzania report a significant increase in cannibalism in rural Tanzania between 1990 and 2005. At least 563 villagers were attacked and many eaten during this period. The incidents occurred near the Selous Game Reserve on the Rufiji River and in the Lindi area near the Mozambique border. The expansion of villages into forest areas is one concern, but in this case conservation contributes directly to human mortality, and the authors argue that conservation policies need to mitigate the hazards. In Lindi, incidents of lions catching humans from the center of a large village have been documented. Another study of 1,000 lion attacks in southern Tanzania between 1988 and 2009 found that the low moonlight weeks after the full moon were a strong signal of increased nocturnal attacks on humans. According to Robert R. Rump, Mozambican refugees who regularly cross South Africa's Kruger National Park at night are attacked and eaten by lions. Park officials said cannibalism was a problem there. Lamp said thousands may have been killed in the decades after apartheid blocked parks and forced refugees to cross them at night. For nearly a century, before the border was closed, Mozambicans had been passing through the park regularly during the day, with little harm.
The lion is one of the most widely recognized animal symbols in human culture. It is widely depicted in sculptures and paintings, national flags, and contemporary films and literature. Despite incidents of attacks on people, it has emerged as a symbol of strength and nobility in European, Asian and African cultures. The lion was depicted as the "King of the Jungle" and the "King of Beasts", and was a popular symbol of royalty and dignity. Lions are also used as symbols for sports teams.
= Africa =
In sub-Saharan Africa, lions are often featured in stories, proverbs, and dances, but are rarely featured in the visual arts. In some cultures, the lion is a symbol of power and royalty. In Swahili, the lion is known as Simba, which also means 'aggressive', 'king' and 'strong'. Some rulers had the word "lion" in their nicknames. Sundiata Keita of Mali was called "Lion of Mali". It is said that the founder of the Kingdom of Warlo was raised by a lion and returned to his people half-lion to use the knowledge he learned from the lion to unite his people. In parts of West Africa, the lion represented the highest social hierarchy. In forested areas where lions were rare, leopards occupied the top of the hierarchy. In parts of West and East Africa, the lion is associated with healing and provides connections with seers and the supernatural. In other East African traditions, the lion represents laziness. In much of African folklore, lions are portrayed as having low intelligence and being easily fooled by other animals. The ancient Egyptians depicted several war gods as lionesses, whom they worshiped as ferocious hunters. Egyptian gods associated with the lion include Sekhmet, Bast, Mafdet, Mencht, Paquette, and Tefnut. These deities were often associated with the sun god Ra and his ferocious heat, and their dangerous powers were invoked to protect people and sacred places. A sphinx was a figure with the body of a lion and the head of a human or other creature, representing the pharaoh or god who assumed this role of protection.
= Asia =
The lion was a prominent symbol in ancient Mesopotamia, from Sumer to Assyria to Babylonia, and was strongly associated with kingship. The lion was her one of the main symbols of the goddess Inanna/Ishtar. The Babylonian Lion was the most important symbol of the Babylonian Empire. The Lion of Judah is the biblical symbol of the tribe of Judah and the later kingdom of Judah. The lion is mentioned frequently in the Bible, especially in the book of Daniel, in which the eponymous hero refuses to worship King Darius and is miraculously unharmed and forced to sleep in the lion's den (Daniel 6). In the Book of Judges, Samson kills a lion on a journey to visit a Philistine woman. (Judges 14) The Indo-Persian chroniclers regarded the lion as the guardian of order in the animal kingdom. Murigendra in Sanskrit means lion as king of animals in general or deer in particular. Narasimha the Lion Man is one of the ten incarnations of the Hindu god Vishnu. Singh is an ancient Indian Vedic name meaning "lion" and its origins date back over 2,000 years. Originally used only by the Hindu Kshatriya or military caste Rajputs, it is now used by millions of Hindu Rajputs and over 20 million Sikhs. Built by King Ashoka in the 3rd century AD, the Lion Capital of Ashoka depicts four lions standing back to back. It became the national emblem of India in 1950. The lion is also symbolic to the Sinhala people, the term is derived from the Sanskrit Sinhala language and means 'of the lion', and the sword-wielding lion is the central figure of Sri Lanka's national flag. Lions are a common motif in Chinese art. It was first used in art during the late Spring and Autumn Period (5th or 6th century BC) and became more popular during the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD) when emperors' protective lions began to be placed in front of imperial palaces for protection. Early depictions were somewhat unrealistic, as lions were not native to China. Since the introduction of Buddhist art into China during the Tang dynasty, from the 6th century AD onwards, lions were usually depicted as wingless, with shorter, thicker bodies and curly manes. Lion dance is a traditional dance of Chinese culture, often accompanied by the music of cymbals, drums and gongs, in which performers in lion costumes imitate the movements of lions. They are played during Chinese New Year, the Moon Festival in August, and other festive occasions for good luck.
= Western world =
Lion-headed figures and amulets have been unearthed from tombs on the Greek islands of Crete, Euboea, Rhodes, Paros and Chios. They are associated with the Egyptian god Sekhmet, and their origins date back to the early Iron Age, between the 9th century BC and his 6th century. The lion appears in several of Aesop's fables, most notably The Lion and the Mouse. The Nemean lion, a symbol of ancient Greece and Rome, represented as a constellation or constellation Leo, was slain and worn by the hero Hercules in mythology, symbolizing victory over death. Lancelot and Gawain were also lion-slaying heroes in the Middle Ages. In some medieval stories, lions are depicted as allies and companions. "Lion" was the nickname for medieval warrior rulers with a reputation for bravery, such as Richard the Lionheart. The lion continues to appear in modern literature as characters such as the savior Aslan in C.S. Lewis' 1950 novel The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and the Chronicles of Narnia series, and the comic Cowardly Lion in L. Frank Baum's 1900 The Wizard of Oz. The lion symbolism has been used since the advent of cinema. One of the most iconic and widely known lions is Leo, the mascot of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios since the 1920s. The 1966 film Born Free features Elsa the Lioness and is based on the 1960 book Born Free. The lion's role as the king of beasts was used in the 1994 Disney animated feature film The Lion King. The lion is frequently depicted in coats of arms as a shield device or supporter, as in the Finnish coat of arms, but the lioness is used much less frequently. Heraldic lions are especially common on the British coat of arms. Although traditionally depicted in a variety of attitudes, only the rampaging lion is considered a lion in French coats of arms. Felines in other positions are called leopards instead.
IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group. "Lion Panthera Leo". "Lion Conservation Fund". Portugal News (2014). "Rare desert lion killed in Angola after providing unprecedented data". Archived from the original on 2018-08-02. Retrieved May 24, 2018. "Lion". Collier's New Encyclopedia. 1921.
Definition & Meaning
- large gregarious predatory feline of Africa and India having a tawny coat with a shaggy mane in the male a celebrity who is lionized (much sought after (astrology the fifth sign of the zodiac; the sun is in this sign from about July 23 to August 22