Most cat species live a
fundamentally solitary existence, but the lion is an exception. It has
developed a social system based on teamwork and a division of labor
within the pride, and an extended but closed family unit centered around
a group of related females.
The average pride consists of about 15
individuals, including five to 10 females with their young and two or
three territorial males that are usually brothers or pride mates.
plentiful in the bigger national parks but will often
tend to stay in the remote parts for long periods at a
time. They are the only cats moving in family groups and
normally occupy a well defined territory.
southern part of South Luangwa
the territories are quite
small and the numbers in the groups quite large, some
over twenty. Typically, two or more dominant males
protect the territory against intruders. Several
lionesses may produce cubs at one time and share the
feeding. Eighty percent of the cubs will not survive to
Within the pride, the territorial males are the fathers of all the cubs.
When a lioness is in heat, a male will join her, staying with her
constantly. The pair usually mates for less than a minute, but it does
so about every 15 to 30 minutes over a period of four to five days.
maturity at four years, young males are evicted from the
group to live a nomadic existence unwanted in any other
lion territory. Many dont survive as they are not
yet efficient hunters, and if one cannot fend for itself,
The lion is an ambush rather than a chase
killer. With its heavy body it can only reach speeds of
about (35 miles) an hour, often much slower than the
animals it pursues, so it requires much stealth and
surprise to catch them. As a group, they will circle the
animal, one will attack and knock it to the ground with a
heavy blow, seize it by the throat or mouth and suffocate
it.. Although not as efficient at hunting as leopard or
wild dog, their communal hunting methods ensure the
survival of the group.
years the dominant males of the group are replaced by
more powerful contenders, thus ensuring the introduction
of new genetic material into the pride gene pool. The new
leaders may kill and eat the cubs of other males. The
impact of this seems to bring the females into heat again
and soon produce cubs from the new dominant males.
The mating behaviour of lions is a painful process for
the female. The penis is barbed and its withdrawal hurts
the female who may twist around and attack the
dismounting male. The pain is necessary for feline mating
as it is the shock to her system that induces ovulation
and permits fertilisation. Lionesses have a gestation
period of three and a half months. Lions live up to about
18 years in the wild.
Lions have long been killed
in rituals of bravery, as hunting trophies and for their medicinal and
magical powers. Although lions are now protected in many parts of
Africa, they were once considered to be stock-raiding vermin and were
killed on sight. In some areas, livestock predation remains a severe
Lions are found in all the major parks in