African Lion (Panthera leo)
Lions are the only cats that live in groups, which are called prides. Prides are family units that may include up to three males, a dozen or so females, and their young. All of a pride's lionesses are related, and female cubs typically stay with the group as they age. Young males eventually leave and establish their own prides by taking over a group headed by another male.
Only male lions boast manes, the impressive fringe of long hair that encircles their heads. Males defend the pride's territory, which may include some 100 square miles (259 square kilometers) of grasslands, scrub, or open woodlands. These intimidating animals mark the area with urine, roar menacingly to warn intruders, and chase off animals that encroach on their turf.
Female lions are the pride's primary hunters. They often work together to prey upon antelopes, zebras, wildebeest, and other large animals of the open grasslands. Many of these animals are faster than lions, so teamwork pays off.
After the hunt, the group effort often degenerates to squabbling over the sharing of the kill, with cubs at the bottom of the pecking order. Young lions do not help to hunt until they are about a year old. Lions will hunt alone if the opportunity presents itself, and they also steal kills from hyenas or wild dogs.
Lions have been celebrated throughout history for their courage and strength. They once roamed most of Africa and parts of Asia and Europe. Today they are found only in parts of sub-Saharan Africa, except for one very small population of Asian lions that survives in India's Gir Forest.
Diet & Hunting
Female lions usually hunt at night or dawn and in packs. Their prey consists mainly of large mammals, such as antelopes, gazelles, warthogs, wildebeest, buffalos and zebras, but smaller animals like hares and birds are also taken occasionally. Carrion is readily taken and often recovered from other predators like hyenas and wild dogs. In some areas, lions specialise on rather atypical prey-species; this is the case at the Savuti river, where they constantly prey on young elephants, and at the Linyanti, where they hunt hippos (both rivers are in Chobe National Park, Botswana). It is reported that the lions, driven by extreme hunger, started taking down baby elephants, then moved on to adolescents and occasionally fully grown adults..
Young lions first try hunting at three months old, but are often not successful hunters until they are two years old. Lions can reach speeds of 50 mph, but they lack the endurance to be long-distance runners, so they have to come quite close to their prey before starting the attack. They sneak up to the victim until they reach a distance of about 30 m (98 feet) or less. Usually several lions work together and encircle the herd from different points. The attack is short and powerful, and the lion tries to catch the victim with a fast rush and some final leaps. The prey is usually killed by strangulation. ý Because lions hunt in open spaces, where they are easily seen by their prey, teamwork increases the likelihood of a successful hunt. Teamwork also enables them to defend their prey more easily against other large predators like hyenas, which can be attracted by vultures over kilometers in open savannas. The males attached to prides do not usually participate in hunting, except in the case of large animals such as buffalo.
An adult female lion needs about 5 kg (11 lbs) of meat per day, a male about 7 kg (15 lbs).
In the past, scientists believed that the "distinct" subspecific status of some subspecies could be justified by their external morphology, like the size of their mane. This morphology was used to identify them, like the Barbary lion and Cape Lion. However, now it is known that various extrinsic factors influence the color and size of a lion's mane, like the ambient temperature. The cooler ambient temperature in European and North American zoos, for example, can result in a heavy mane. Therefore, the heavy mane is an inappropriate marker for identifying subspecies.
Maneless lions have been reported in Senegal and Tsavo-National Park. As well as having an inherited component, the presence, absence and degree of mane is also associated with sexual maturity and testosterone production. Castrated lions have minimal manes. The original male white lion from Timbavati was also maneless. Manelessness is also found in inbred lion populations; inbreeding also results in poor fertility. A heavy mane may provide an indicator of a lion's genetic and physical health. It may also afford him some protection in fights. In some animal species, females show a preference for males with better outward displays of fertility and vigour. It is possible that lionesses more actively solicit mating with heavily maned lions in prides led by a coalition of 2 or 3 males, though there seem to be no published studies.
The male lion, easily recognized by his mane, can weigh between 150-225 kg (330-500 lb) and females range from 120-150 kg (260-330 lb), and average around 125 kg (275 lb). The largest captive African lion weighed 366 kilograms (806 lb). Head and body length is 170 to 250 cm (5'7" to 8'2") in males and 140 to 175 cm (4'7" to 5'9") in females; shoulder height is about 123 cm (4') in males and 100 cm (3'3") in females. The tail length is 70 to 100 cm (2'3" to 3'3"). The tail ends in a hairy tuft. The tuft conceals a spine, approximately 5 mm long, formed of the final sections of tail bone fused together. The lion is the only felid to have tuffed tail and the function of the tuft and spine are unknown. In the wild, lions live up to 16 years, while in captivity they can live ten years longer than that.
The coloration varies from light buff to yellowish, reddish or dark ochraceous brown. The color of the manes varies from blond to black. The underparts are generally brighter. The tail tuft is black.
African lions live in plains or savanna habitat with a large prey base (mostly ungulates) and sufficient cover available. In these optimal habitats, lions are the second most abundant large predator, after spotted hyenas Crocuta crocuta. Lions can also live, with wider ranges, in most habitats except in tropical rainforests and in deserts. Lions can live in forested, shrubby, mountainous, and semi-desert habitats. They are capable of living at high altitudes. There is a lion population in the Bale Mountains of Ethiopia at 4,240 m.
Life Span & Longetivity
Female lions typically live longer than males. Males reach their prime between five and nine years but few males survive past ten years of age. Some males have survived until 16 in the wild. Females normally live until 15 or 16 years. In the Serengeti, females live up to 18 years. In captivity, lions live approximately 13 years. The oldest known lion was 30 years old.
Lion prides are fission-fusion societies; pride members come and go and are rarely all together at once. There can be anywhere from 2 to 40 lions in a pride. In Kruger and Serengeti National Parks, pride size was on average 13 lions. The average composition of these prides was 1.7 adult males, 4.5 adult females, 3.8 subadults, and 2.8 juveniles.
The resident males of a pride are immigrants that have forcefully gained control of the pride from the previous male members. In order to successfully take over a pride, males form coalitions, usually consisting of brothers. Adolescent males leave their natal pride when their fathers (or the new male leaders of the pride) begin to view them as competition at about 2.5 years. These males lead nomadic lives for two to three years, then form a coalition and seek a pride to take over. Male coalitions of 2 tend to rule a pride for no more than two and a half years, long enough for one set of cubs to be reared. Coalitions of three and four tend to rule a pride for longer than 3 years. Coalitions of more than four are rare, most likely because large coalitions are difficult to keep together.
Prides are comprised of related females. Females are lifelong residents in their mother's territory. Female pridemates do not compete or fight with each other and do not display the kinds of dominance behavior that are observed in many matriarchal social systems. Related females in the same pride tend to have synchronous reproduction, and they cross-suckle their cubs. This cooperative behavior discourages dominance behavior. In contrast, males are very aggressive with other pride members, especially when feeding. The lack of dominance among females may have made it easier for communal cub-raising, since females are unable to influence the reproduction of other female pride members. Alternatively, the mutualistic benefits of communal cub-raising may have reduced the tendency to form pride hierarchies.
Lions have the great ability to critically injure or kill other lions when engaged in a fight. Fighting with a pridemate of similar age and sex not only threatens the survival of the individual but also risks injuring a valuable team-member that could later help to defend the pride against intruders. It would seem, therefore, that intrapride aggression would be selected against.
The lions of the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania have been studied continuously since 1966. Research has shown that lions form groups for many reasons besides greater hunting efficiency. Because lions live at higher population densities than other large cats, there is a great need for pride members to collectively defend their territory against takeovers by other lions. Also, lionesses reproduce synchronously and form highly stable groups that defend their cubs against infanticide. Finally, smaller prides tend to be more gregarious than larger prides in order to defend their territory as a group.
Areas that have the greatest variety and total biomass of hoofed mammals (prey) in open habitats can support up to 12 lions per 100 km^2. In an area with bountiful prey, lions spend approximately twenty hours per day sleeping. They become most active in the late afternoon, mainly socializing with the pride. Hunting typically takes place at night and into the hours of the early morning.
Lastly, lions have a common greeting ritual of rubbing heads together with tails looped in the air, while moaning.
- Weight; Males: 150-225 kg (330-500 lb) Females: 120-150 kg (260-330 lb), and average around 125 kg (275 lb)
- Size Males: 170 to 250 cm (5'7" to 8'2") Females: 140 to 175 cm (4'7" to 5'9")
- Diet; Buffalo, zebra, antelope, giraffe, and warthogs. Gnu and wildebeest
Siberian Tiger (Panthera Tigris Altaica)
The Siberian Tiger (Panthera tigris altaica) is a rare subspecies of tiger (P. tigris). Also known as the Amur, North China Tiger, Manchurian, or Korean Tiger, it is the largest tiger subspecies of the world.
Male Siberian Tigers weigh commonly up to 280 kilograms . In some cases, males can weigh as much as 350 kilograms (800 lb), the largest documented wild Siberian Tiger weighed 384 kg and was killed in Russia in 1934. At these sizes, the Siberian Tiger is the largest natural creature of the cat family, a title it may share with the most northern living Bengal tigers. This, however, is not as large as the liger, a panthera hybrid found almost exclusively in captivity. The largest captive Siberian Tiger was 3.9 metres (13 ft) long and weighed over 423 kilograms (932 lb). Apart from its size, the Siberian Tiger is differentiated from other tiger subspecies by its paler fur and dark brown (rather than black) stripes. As well as colour their fur is thicker and longer to keep them warm in the freezing temperatures of their habitat. Siberian Tigers also have larger feet than most other sub-species to facilitate movement through snow
Distribution & Populaion
The Siberian Tiger is critically endangered. In the early 1900s, it lived throughout the northeastern China, Korean Peninsula, northeastern Mongolia and southeastern Russia. Today, it has virtually disappeared from South Korea and is largely confined to a very small part of Russia's southern Far East (the Amur-Ussuri region of Primorsky and Khabarovsky Krai). There are very few tigers in northeastern China and fewer still in North Korea. Captive breeding and conservation programs are currently active.
The tiger population in the wild was probably lower than 50 in the 1930s, increasing to more than 200 in 1982. Poaching has been brought under better control thanks to frequent road inspections.
A count, taken in 1996 reported 430 Siberian Tigers in the wild. However, Russian conservation efforts have led to a slight increase, or at least to a stable population of the subspecies, as the number of individuals in the Siberian Forests was estimated between 431 and 529 in the last count in 2005.
The Hengdaohezi Feline Breeding Centre in the northern Heilongjiang province of China plans to release 620 Siberian tigers in 2007, after its numbers grew
from eight to 750.
Like all other cats, the Siberian Tiger is a carnivorous predator; an adept hunter, it preys primarily on wild boar, roe deer, sika deer and goral, but will also take smaller prey like lagomorphs (hares, rabbits, and pikas) and fish, including salmon. Unlike the Bengal Tiger, the Siberian Tiger rarely attacks humans. It has sometimes even been known to kill and eat Asiatic black bears and even brown bears. Since it is estimated that 85% of a Siberian Tiger's diet is composed of red deer and wild boar, protecting these and other prey animals from illegal hunting may be just as important to the tiger's survival as preventing direct killing of the big cats.
- Weight; Male Siberian Tigers weigh commonly up to 280 kilograms . In some cases, males can weigh as much as 350 kilograms (800 lb)
- Size; 10.75 ft (3.3 m)