African Lion

ZOO LOCATION: African Rift Valley

Lifespan: up to 25 years

Wild Diet: Antelopes, zebra, wildebeests, rodents, birds and reptiles

Zoo Diet: Feline diet with two fast days per week; bones

Predators: Cubs are preyed upon by hyena and leopards

SSP: Yes

IUCN Status: Vulnerable

Habitat/Range: Savannahs of Africa

Characteristics: African lions have light tawny coats with white on their abdomen and inside of legs; back of ears are black. Male lions have manes ranging in color from tawny to reddish-brown to black. Manes provide protection from aggressor's teeth and claws. Coats of immature lions have rosette patterns. Patterns may remain on abdomen and legs of some cats throughout their adult years. Males may be up to 10 feet long and weigh up to 550 lbs. with a shoulder height of three feet. Females are smaller and may weigh up to 300 lbs.

Behavior: Lions are social animals, living in prides of related females with young and unrelated or transient males. Lionesses do most of the hunting while males defend the territory and pride. Females of a pride normally hunt together in open country at night and in heavier vegetation during the day. Lions may eat as much as one quarter of their body weight at one time; However, they may then go several days without food. Vision and sense of smell are keen and more important for hunting than hearing. Lions, like many felines, rest up to 20 hours a day.

Reproduction: Gestation for lions lasts 100-119 days, with a typical litter of 2-4 young weighing about 2-3 lbs. each. Born in secluded nursery; cubs reach sexual maturity at 34-46 months in the wild. A new alpha male in a pride may kill all the cubs so females will come into estrus and reproduce with his offspring. Females will suckle another lion's young.

Conservation: Not immediately threatened, lions still face dangers to survival. Though estimating the size of the African lion population across the continent is challenging, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) suspects a species population reduction of approximately 30% over the past two decades or approximately three lion generations. The cause of this reduction primarily includes indiscriminate killing of lions in defense of life and livestock, decline in prey species (i.e. food availability), and lack of quality space and habitat.

In 2008-2009 a portion of the Zoo's Quarters for Conservation project went to the Lion Conservation Fund (LCF). The LCF protects African lions by working with the local communities. Through research, education and action, LCF develops sustainable solutions to lion-human conflicts. Learn more on the Zoo's Quarters for Conservation web page.