African Lion

Scientific Name

Panthera leo

Class

Mammalia

Order

Carnivora

Range

Habitat

Forests, shrublands, and grasslands

Estimated Wild Population

Less than 20,000
IUCN Conservation Status: Vulnerable IUCN Conservation Status: Vulnerable

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Physical Description

African lions are large predators that can weigh up to 500 pounds. Males are larger than females and can be distinguished by their mane, which surrounds their head and extends down to their chest. Lions live in prides of up to 40 individuals; 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. 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 after two and a half years, living nomadically for a time before seeking to take over their own pride.

Interesting Fact 1

Lions normally spend up to 20 hours a day resting.

Interesting Fact 2

Lions are the only wild big cats that live and hunt in groups.

Interesting Fact 3

They often use coordinated group attacks to capture prey, surrounding their prey before charging from the left, right, and center. When individual lions routinely attack from the same position, their hunts become more successful.

Caring for African Lions

Pepper Family Wildlife Center, Lincoln Park Zoo’s new home for lions and other carnivores, is now open! The renovation of this state-of-the-art space, guided by years of behavioral data, includes habitat features that promote positive animal welfare.

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Collaborating to Conserve Lions

Lincoln Park Zoo works with partners in Tanzania to support healthy lion populations, which have suffered severe declines across their range over the past 25 years. Very few sustainable lion populations remain in Africa, and they are restricted to a small set of protected areas.

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