Basic Intriguing Facts About Lions
Lion scientifically known as Panthera leo is a species of the family Felidae (a family of mammals in the order Carnivore informally referred to as cats). Lions have forever been a symbol of strength, power and ferocity giving it the title-king of the jungle, offering a great sight to behold to Uganda safaris tourists. A lion is a muscular, deep-chested cat with a short, rounded head, a reduced neck and round ears, and a hairy tuft at the end of its tail. The lion is the second largest cat in the world. Lions live in the grasslands, scrub, and open woodlands of sub-Saharan Africa. Even with the known ferocity lions are the laziest of the big cats spending about 16-20 hours of the day sleeping or resting. Spending these hours lazing around, they are affectionate towards each other, grooming, purring and rubbing heads as they lie on their backs with their feet up or snoozing on a tree fig like how it is popular at Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Roles in a lion’s pride
The lion is sexually dimorphic meaning not only are the male and female lions different by sex, they also exhibit different characteristics. Males and females take on very different roles in the pride (a group of lions). Male lions spend most of their time guarding their territory and their cubs. They maintain the boundaries of their territory (it can be as large as 260 sq. km2 ) and they do this by roaring, marking it with urine, and chasing off intruders. The male lions have a thick mane that protects their necks when they fight with challengers.
Young male lions (cubs) are forced out of the pride at the age of two (2) years. They form bachelor groups and follow migrating herds until they are strong enough to challenge male lions of other prides. A single group of males therefore stay in power for about three years before they are taken over by another group
Surprisingly, female lions are the main hunters of the group. Since their prey is generally faster than them, they use teamwork to bring it down. While blowing out, the lionesses form a semicircle, with the smaller, weaker lionesses driving the prey towards the center as the stronger females knock the animal down and make the kill.
Feeding Characteristics of the lions
Lions usually hunt at night, not because their eyesight is better under low light but because with craftiness they can probably approach their prey closer at night than during the day. Their prey is usually faster and with clear vision during the day it can probably give the lion a hard time. Lions prey include young elephants, antelopes, buffaloes, zebras, rhinos, wild hogs, crocodiles’ hippos and giraffes. However, at times they also prey on smaller animals like mice, birds, hares, lizards, and tortoises. On a Uganda wildlife safari therefore, capturing these everlasting moments can come true when you plan to take a night game drive.
After the female lions make a successful hunt, all the lions in the pride share the meal or kill. Though, there is an eating or biting order, with the adult males eating first, followed by the lionesses and lastly the cubs. fast-working digestive system, which allows them to gorge themselves and then go for seconds shortly after.
Lions can spend 4-5 days without drinking water (gaining moisture from the stomach contents of their prey) but if available they will drink water every day.
Social life of Lions
Rather not like other cats, lions are very social animals. They live in groups, called prides, with around 30 lions. A Lions pride consists of up to three males, a dozen related females, and their young. Availability of food and water determines the size of the pride and with reduction in resources, the group becomes smaller. With their social character, the pride members keep track of one another by roaring. Both males and females have a very powerful roar that can be heard up to 8 km (5 mi.) away.
Reproduction in Lions
From the age of 3-8 years, the lionesses start mating and can give birth to 2-3 cubs at a time. Females are interested in mating for three or four days within a widely variable reproductive cycle. In this time a pair generally mates every 20–30 minutes with about 50 copulations in 24 hours. A lioness gives birth after about 108 days in every 2 years.
Usually a couple of females give birth at around the same time. The cubs are then raised together, sometimes nursing communally. The cubs are vulnerable to predators like hyenas, leopards, and black-backed jackals, creating an almost 60-70% mortality rate. Unfortunately, in case another group of male lions takes over a pride, they kill all the cubs so they can sire their own with the lionesses.
As the male lions leave the group by the age of 2, the female cubs stay with the group and at this age they become capable hunters.
NB: The lion was once found throughout Africa, Asia and Europe but now exists only in Africa with one exception. The last remaining Asiatic lions are found in Sasan-Gir National Park in India, which was primarily created to protect the species.
On a safari in Uganda, you can actually have a glimpse of the lions in various parks including Queen Elizabeth National Park, Murchison Falls National Park and Kidepo Valley National Park. It one of the sought-after member of the big five wild animals and also easily seen on a Tanzania wildlife safari, wildlife safari in Kenya or Rwanda wildlife safari. Therefore, East Africa is a great lion sight destination whether on the popular 3 days Queen Elizabeth national park Uganda safari tour or on any extended safari.
Known by its ferocity a lion is both beautiful by color and strength offering a great memory to behold on safari.