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The largest member of the big cat family, the African lion is also the only member that enjoys socializing with his own kind. The lion, whose scientific name is Panthera leo, lives throughout sub-Saharan Africa in small herds, or family units, known as prides.
The African Lion
Lions are the largest species of the Felidae family, which includes all of the world’s cats, both big and small. Mature lions reach up to 4 feet tall and 8 feet long, and weigh up to 500 pounds, although females are typically smaller than males. They are covered head to toe in short, yellowish-brown fur, with mature males possessing a shaggy mane of thick, long brown or black hair.
A Pride of Lions
Lions tend to form prides of about 15 members. A typical pride is made up of one to three mature males, several mature females and their young. Females share most of the work of hunting and caring for the young, while males establish and protect the pride’s territory. Although males are extremely territorial toward outsiders, within the pride, members are generally affectionate and playful with one another, according to Defenders of Wildlife.
Although once populous throughout all of Africa, the Middle East and India, today prides of African lions are only found in the southern Sahara Desert, eastern Africa and parts of southern Africa. A rare subspecies, the Asiatic lion, can still be found on a nature preserve in India’s Gir Forest, where their population only numbers about 300 lions.
Habitat and Hunting Habits
Lion prides usually live and establish their territories in grasslands and savannas, woodlands and thick bush. They prey on other animals that inhabit these areas, including wildebeests, zebras, giraffes and even elephants. The females of the pride usually hunt nocturnally, often working together in teams to stalk and capture large prey, which they then share with the whole pride.
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