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Species Spotlight: African Lion

written by: R. Elizabeth C. Kitchen•edited by: Niki Fears•updated: 5/29/2009

This article will discuss the African lion. It will discuss prides, their size, territory, hunting and eating habits and their threatened status.

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    African Lion: Prides

    African lions are the only cats in the world that live in groups. These groups are called prides and can include approximately a dozen females, up to three males and all of the young lion cubs. All of the female African lions in a pride are related and the female lion cubs usually stay with the pride throughout their lives. The male cubs eventually leave the pride when they grow up to start their own prides.

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    African Lion: Territory

    Male African lions are the defenders of their pride. The typical African lion pride territory ranges approximately one hundred square miles or open woodlands, scrub or grasslands. Male African lions mark and protect their territory with their menacing roar, urine and by chasing off any trespassing animals.

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    African Lion: Hunting and Eating Habits

    Female African lions are the main hunters for their pride. African lions are carnivorous. They often work in teams to hunt and kill animals such as wildebeest, zebras, antelopes and other large animals found in grassland areas. Many of the animals that lions hunt are faster than lions so working in teams is how they score most of their prey. Lions do hunt alone, but usually not purposely. If an opportunity for food presents itself, then African lions will take advantage of it. Once prey is caught and killed the lion pride will squabble over the kill and the lion cubs are the last ones to eat. Lion cubs will not begin hunting until they reach about a year old.

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    African Lion: Size

    Only the male lions have manes. These mammals can reach an impressive 265 to 420 pounds and can reach lengths of 4.5 to 6.5 feet with a tail about 26 to 39 inches. When comparing the size of a male African lion to a human man, six feet tall is the best estimate.

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    African Lion: A Threatened Species

    African lions are currently considered a threatened species. At one time these courageous hunters roamed the majority of Africa as well as parts of Europe and Asia. Today, the African lion can only be found in parts of sub-Saharan Africa. There is also a very small population of Asian lions in the Gir Forest in India.