African lion

Latin Name
Panthera leo krugeri

Class
Mammals

Order
Carnivora

Description

Large predators, African lions can weigh up to 500 pounds. The species' tan coat blends in among the vegetation of its home, helping it to stalk prey. Males are larger than females and can be distinguished by their mane, which surrounds the head and extends down to the chest.


 

Range

African lions can be found from the southern Sahara Desert down to southern Africa, excluding the Congo rain forest region.


Status

African lion populations are classified as vulnerable, with numbers declining due to habitat loss throughout Africa. Lincoln Park Zoo scientists are helping to conserve the species through the zoo-managed Serengeti Health Initiative, a research program dedicated to studying the Serengeti ecosystem and conserving its wildlife. Lincoln Park Zoo participates in the Lion Species Survival Plan®, a shared conservation effort by zoos throughout the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.


Habitat

African lions inhabit grasslands and open woods.


Niche

The big cats prey on large hoofed animals, such as gazelles, impalas, zebras and wildebeest. They will also scavenge and eat smaller prey, if necessary. Hunting often occurs in groups. The males’ manes and larger size make them more conspicuous, so females do the majority of the hunting. Hunting takes place at night and in early morning. Prides can spend up to 20 hours per day sleeping.


Life History

Lions live in prides of 2-40 members; the average group has 13 members. The species breeds year-round. Males compete fiercely for the ability to breed with prides of females. Young males often band together to gain control of a pride, with stronger males forcing weaker ones out in battles that can end in the death of the loser.

The females of a pride often give birth in close proximity and can help one another care for their cubs. Cubs are kept in hiding for the first eight weeks of their lives and remain dependent on adults until they are 16 months of age. Females remain in their pride upon reaching maturity, while males leave the group at 2.5 years, living nomadically for a time before seeking to take over their own pride.


Special Adaptations
  • The lion's archetypal roar is used to communicate with other group members and warn intruders of territorial boundaries.
  • Long, retractable claws help the lion to grab and hold prey.
  • The species' rough tongue helps it to peel the skin of prey animals away from flesh and flesh away from bone.
  • Loose belly skin allows the African lion to be kicked by prey with little chance of injury.


Bonus Content

Dual Lions
One last bit of enrichment fun from the Chi-Cow-Go event celebrating Chicago's 175th birthday—Sahar chews a "rival" from the Art Institute of Chicago.


Fond Memories
Take a look back to highlight some of the many animals who have created great memories for zoo visitors and staff alike. 

African lion Sahar has grown a lot since making his Lincoln Park Zoo debut in spring 2012.

Post from the President--Birthday Boys
President and CEO Kevin Bell offers birthday updates for male lion Sahar and Sichuan takin calves Xing Fu and Mengyao

New male lion Sahar is now a steady presence in his exhibit at the Kovler Lion House.

Sahar Settles In
The zoo’s new male lion is now a steady presence in his exhibit at the Kovler Lion House. See the new “king” up close.

One last bit of enrichment fun from the Chi-Cow-Go event celebrating Chicago’s 175th birthday—Sahar chews a “rival” from the Art Institute of Chicago.

Dual Lions
One last bit of enrichment fun from the Chi-Cow-Go event celebrating Chicago’s 175th birthday—Sahar chews a “rival” from the Art Institute of Chicago.

Preserve memories for future generations—and keep Chicago’s zoo free—with a gift to the Annual Fund.

Remember the Roar  
Do you remember the first time you heard a lion roar at Lincoln Park Zoo? You can preserve these memories for future generations—and keep Chicago’s zoo free—with a gift to the Annual Fund.

Video: Lion Sahar climbs atop one of the rocks at the Kovler Lion House

Lion Sahar Surveys His Surroundings
New lion Sahar continues to grow more comfortable in his exhibit. Here he climbs atop one of the rocks for the first time. Thanks to Lead Keeper Anthony Nielsen for the footage!

 

 

African lion Sahar has made his first appearance at the Kovler Lion House.

Sahar Makes His Debut
In his latest post, President and CEO Kevin Bell shares that male lion Sahar has made his first appearance at the Kovler Lion House. Come meet the new arrival!

 

All Adult
Zoo babies often attrach the biggest crowds, but animals in their prime—including lions, black bears and De Brazza's monkeys—have plenty of interesting behaviors to share as well. 

 


Lincoln Park Zoo Exhibit