THE LIONS ARE KINGS OF THE AFRICAN GRASSLANDS
“If ever you feel like an animal among men, be a lion.” -Criss Jami
I don’t need to tell you once again how much I am in love with lions. These are, with no doubts, my favourite wild animals and the obsession with them lead me to Africa, few times. As a vivid cat lover, I am fascinated with all felines all over the world but indeed, lions are the best. It is maybe because they are the gang, the fellowships that goes for what they want or they keep on social life and family bounds. It could be the way they act, roar, hunt …..and at the end of the day, cuddle with their cubs. They are the wonderful mixture of all attractive features and they are still bold, brave and so good looking. My spiritual animal is lioness so as far as I know, my soul is aching to merge with Africa and find home over there, where it belongs for centuries.
What we do need to know about this wild cat elite that is ruling the savannah ? The lions are the second biggest wild cats in the world, after the tigers and the only one known that is grouping the individual lions and lionesses in so called prides. One pride usually consists of about 15 lions. The job of the male is to take care or protect the pride´s land or territory while the females are doing the hunt activities. Nevertheless, the king is eating first. That is some secret rule of internal relations. At the beginning, the lions were located all around Africa, Asia and Europe but now they are mostly in Africa and some small number of lions are highly protected in Asia, the part of India, in Sasan-Gir National Park( there are about 400 lions ) and they are smaller than African lions, that’s why they are categorized as Panthera Leo persica. African lions are Panthera Leo.
These animals lost majority of their habitat due to the aggressive industrialisation, overpopulation of humans and some of them lost their lives due to the practice of trophy hunting.
The lifespan of the lions is about 10 years in the wilderness but in captivity could be up to 30 years. It was really sad to witness the death of Loonkito, the oldest lion male in Africa, in Kenya, that was killed by herdsmen in May, this year. He was 18 years old the ruler of Africa. They are majestic mammals that can be very fit and run at 50 mph and leap as far as 36 feet. They can also climb the trees to avoid other predators, bothering or to watch prey. For them is not always easy job to get down from the trees, so not all wild cats are perfect climbers, at least the lions are not the best in climbing sport because they are pretty much massive. The adult male could reach 190 kg and the female about 130 kg. The males are bigger than females and also longer. The difference between males and females is obvious but if you are on safari and try to locate them and observe them in high grass, I must admit I had a difficulty to point the difference between the lioness and the lion that has no mane. The real experts say it is not problem to spot the lioness or young lion but for amateurs like myself, it was a challenge:”Adult male lions grow an impressive mane, but manes are not just for cool looks alone. The manes can grow up to 16cm long and make lions look bigger than they are. That illusion of size proves useful in attracting mates and scaring off potential rivals. A lion’s mane also serves as protection for the neck and head during fights and hunting. Lions start to grow manes at three years old. The older a male lion gets, the darker his mane becomes. A full and dark mane shows dominance. Note that not all adult males have manes. While some lions will have manes covering their head, shoulders, throat, and chest, some lions may just have a slight fringe around their face.”
While I was observing lions in the nature, I was impressed how long they are able to chill out and cuddle and groom each others. These cats are very affectionate among themselves and very patient with the cubs, that are naughty and hyperactive in the first months of their lives. For lions is very well know that they hunt mostly during the night because they are fit and they have great visibility but they are also able to relax up to 21 hours. Thats why they try to prepare meals for more days so they can have relax time and doing simply nothing. Once they ate, they are just watching the impalas and gnus walking around, without being bothered to even react. The guide that was with me explained that we can easily make a lunch in the car, parking by them and watching them for hours since they don’t care, they are ok with it. They were playing, roaring, purring and sometimes starring at me wondering why the hell I am so excited. I noted that there are more lionesses that sleep together and play with their cubs, analysing the coming hunting strategy. What is interesting is that there are alpha male and alpha female. The alpha female is so called huntress because she is the one that is taking care of cubs and lead the hunt. They can both good and loud roar, so it could be heard up to 5 miles. This helps them to warn the competitive prides that the territory and the prey belongs to them, to help to the lonely lion to reunite with them and also in the mating season. They are the top predators but they do have enemies. On the first place are evil humans that abuse lions and hunt them illegal for trade on the black wildlife market. On the second place are animal enemies, hyenas that are attacking lions for seeing them as a competition for food. The hyenas are very lucrative and the lions know how to behave around them. Honestly, I love all animals but seeing hyenas somehow trying to come nearby lions and take something from them or even attacking little cubs made me so angry. It is the nature and I know it makes the best out of it and without our impact but still, I was so much upset. They are following the lions, hoping to get something to eat from the rest or even something to steal and provide free meal for their own gang. On the other side, the lionesses make the strategy to bring food on the table. Some of them are weaker so they are acting as herders while the stronger will go for a kill and bring it. The pride males eat first and after them, females and cubs. I find this not ok but if that does work for them, works for me too, I guess. The nomadic lions that are single players hunt for themselves. The lions take care of the cubs communally. After the pregnancy that takes 110 days, the cubs are born and protected by the every single member of the pride which further means that they can get nursery and care from every lioness mommy and being raised and educated from every lion daddy. The hippie community that is well organised in the wildlife world. There are usually 2-3 cubs in the litter but not all of them manage to grow up or survive the risky life of savannah. If they get into teenage ages, the young lions stay a bit with their families and then try to find or ground their own prides while the girls stay bit longer with the family.
The issue with lions is very similar and must be addressed as soon as possible. The main reason for their vulnerability and the life under risk is the human idiocy, ignorance and lack of education. The Homo sapiens failed to understand that Earth belongs to all creatures not just to the egoistic humans. If we don’t do something about their conservation and spread the knowledge about their importance while they are live, we risk to lose these amazing wild cats and have them just as a memory of old good times. Lions don’t have enough time. Simba doesn’t have enough time. It is time to act and put all criminals in the jails for each time they play against precious animals.
One thought on “THE LIONS : VERY PROUD PRIDE OF THE MAJESTIC WILD CATS”
Sarah’s delightful and evocative article induced me to ponder specific aspects about lions…
I imagine that indigenous peoples all across the African continent (i.e. pre-European interactions) had various appellations for the lion: linguists documented Southern African nouns for the lion, during the 1800s, with many of these words having prehistoric origins. The Zulu word ‘ibubesi’ (i.e. lion) derives from their verb ‘bhubeza’ (i.e. to make the final decision – relative to strength, authority and sagacity).
In actuality, the Panthera lineage (i.e. lions descended from this) first emerged in northern Central Asia, c. 10 million years ago. The species began to divide and spread; reaching northeast Africa around 3 million years ago. The Eurasian and North American lion species became extinct during the last glacial period, while the various African lion species became separated by topographical changes: the equatorial rainforest began to expand c. 200,000 years ago, which divided southern from northern subspecies. The enlargement of The Sahara Desert c. 70,000 years ago, separated northern lion species, as some split throughout North Africa and some migrated into Asia Minor and Southern Europe.
Basically, humans eradicated lions from Asia and Europe, during the last few millennia, via hunting, loss of habitat, diseases and impacts leading to a lack of genetic evolution, etc. Ironically, it is the Ancient Greek noun ‘λέων’ (i.e. léōn) that survives…