A pride consists of about one dominant male lion, several lionesses (female lion) and cubs both males and females and of different ages. How much do you know about the king and his pride?
This is one kingdom that has been on the decline over the years. The numbers are not in their favor. The lion is currently listed as ‘vulnerable’ on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species. In West Africa, the species is now classified as “Critically Endangered (Panthera.org)
About 50 years back lions used to exist in their thousands, about 400,000 across Africa. Currently we only have an estimated 20,000 in 27 countries globally. 26 of these countries are African and one Asian. Here in Kenya, we have around 2000 lions.
1. Habitat loss: most of the historic lion habitats have been shrinking as our populations increase. Right now the problem that has resulted is human-wildlife conflict; whereby lions now hunt livestock and the result is they also get hunted down and killed in retaliation.
2. House fighting: this is also a side effect of shrinking territories; the same territories are constantly fought over and as a new male takes over the pride, it kills all other cubs, further reducing their number
3. Poaching: most lions are hunted and killed for their beautiful coats and manes. The heads are kept as trophies, traditionally to signify strength and might. Trophy hunting is still practiced in9 African countries. Asian countries use the lion bones for medicinal purposes, although this has been proven to be a myth. Additionally, lions are also killed for bush meat.
4. Disease: being in the wild, sometimes diseases occur and spread at a fast rate amongst the prides, causing a reduction in their numbers due to deaths.
5. Reduction in prey numbers: well this is an action-reaction kind of situation. Lions are carnivores so have to hunt down and eat prey. Their traditional preferences like zebras and antelopes are also on the constant decline, hence less food available for them.
A lion, being at the top of the food chain, has no known natural predators, well except man. This is why the lion is often referred to as ‘king of the jungle’. Their roar can be heard from as far as 8 kilometers.
The most dominant lion in the pride often tends to have a visibly darker mane (the hairs around an adult male’s head) and also, a darker mane signifies an older male. However, there have been incidences where males barely have a mane.
Have you ever noticed the end of a lion’s tale has a black tip; this is so that the cubs can see and follow the lion even in the tall savannah grass, very smart if I might add.
Lions are good in camouflage; their golden color blends in well with the tall grass in the savanna, their natural habitat. They see clearly at night; their eyesight is 8 times better than that of a human.
Two things the lions hate are hyenas and water. Hyenas often scavenge for lion kills and so do not give the lions peace as they eat and at times snatch away their kills before they eat to their fill.
Sometimes the hyenas can harm or kill lion cubs too. As for water, they love drinking it, but not getting in contact with it. The leopard and tiger are the only cats that are at peace with water. Additionally, lions can spend up to 20 minutes just drinking water, mostly after a good meal.
One thing lions and their prides love is sleeping; they can sleep or rest for up to 22 hours out of the 24 a day has. They mostly prefer hunting at night since it gets too hot in the day. This is also seen as an adaptation strategy to survive harsh dry conditions. it reduces sweating and so conserves water.
Lions are not only sleepy, but are also very patient; they can lie in wait for hours just to catch a prey.
Lions communicate with each other in different forms; from purring, snarls, liking each other and gentle head rubbing.
In the recent times there have been numerous efforts from different angles to try and improve on their numbers. This is from different entities and the government included, through the Kenya wildlife service.
Most approaches are centered towards reducing the human-wildlife conflicts and putting a stop to poaching and illegal hunting. The numbers have slightly increased and therefore giving a
cautiously positive outlook.
It is important to understand what there is to know about lions, debunk the myths and learn ways to help in their conservation and why it is important for them to exist and not go extinct. It is important to realize the value of lions now than when they are gone.