An adult male lion looking up to the sky
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Posted by Linda

Last week, we wrote a short blog about rhinos, and it's proved a really popular page. So, we thought we'd follow up with a few more like this - this time it is about lions.

The lion (Panthera leo), which belongs to the Felidae family, is one of only four large cats that comes from the Panthera species, the other three being the tiger, the jaguar, and the leopard.

The tiger is the largest, with the lion weighing in second at over 250kg (550lbs). In the male lion, the length from their heads to the end of their bodies is 170–250cm (5ft 7in–8ft 2in) and 140–175cm (4ft 7in–5ft 9in) in the female.

In males, the height to the shoulder can be as high as 123cm (4ft) and at its recorded lowest, 91cm (3ft) in the female.

The one common thing both males and females share is the hairy tuft at the end of the tail which doesn't appear till the cub is about 5-6 months old and is really obvious at 7 months.

The male lion, with his large mane and distinctive face, is one of the most commonly known animal symbols known to us. 

Wild lions have become extinct in parts of North Africa and Southwest Asia. Happily, however, they are still to be found in sub-Saharan Africa and, even though still in peril, they do exist in the Gir Forest National Park, India.

At one time (approximately 10,000 years ago), as land-based mammals, the lion came second in number only to humans.

Sadly, during the second half of the 20th century, the number of African lions has diminished by 30-50% and they are now becoming endangered.

Wild male lions rarely live over 10 years due to the repetitive fighting caused by rivalry. However, in captivity, the life expectancy for male and female lions can be longer than 20 years.

Of these captive lions, about 77% are of an unknown origin. Unlike most cats, lions prefer to live in a community, known as a pride.

This is made up of related females and offspring and a small number of adult males. Female lions that gather in groups normally hunt with one another.

Their main prey are any kind of animal that has hooves. Even though they are top level predators, with few predators of their own, they will sometimes just scavenge instead.

Although mostly nocturnal, lions will hunt at twilight or just before dawn. Most unusually, they have preyed on humans in the past.

How are charities helping lions?

If you'd like to learn more about lions and what charity WWF does to help them, see more on our adopt a lion page.

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