SIZE: Shoulder height (m) 1.2m (f) 1.05m; weight (m) 180kg, (f) 130kg.
COLOUR: Tawny, but varies from almost silvery yellow to reddish brown with paler undersides (female belly yellowish to almost white); yellow to black mane. Faint, leopard like spots on young sometimes retained into adulthood.
MOST LIKE: Unlikely to be confused with any other animal.
HABITAT: Variety of habitats, from open savanna to semi-desert; never in forests.
Lions are the top predator in any African ecosystem in which they occur, and are the largest of the African carnivores. With their large, muscular, tawny bodies and characteristic manes, they are unmistakable, and are treated with awe by prey species as well as most visitors to game reserves, whether it be their first visit or their fiftieth.
Lions, like other cats, adapt well to their particular circumstances. They select their prey from the spectrum of available animals, but, given a choice, they exhibit a preference for large ungulates. It is believed that the social structure of lions has evolved from the necessity of co-operation in bringing down such large animals successfully. Studies have shown that the weight range of prey is between 20 to 800 kg in mass. On the upper end of the scale are giraffe and cape buffalo while the lower end includes gazelle and warthog. Lions in groups may attack and kill heavier animals such as rhinoceros and hippopotamus but it is not common. Smaller animals such as steenbok and springhares will tide lions over during hard times, especially in areas where larger game migrate and are therefore not always readily available.
WILDLIFE PARKS AND RESERVES WHERE THIS SPECIES IS FOUND: