African and Asian Lions (Panthera leo) Fact Sheet, 2016
Image Credit: © San Diego Zoo Global. All Rights Reserved.
Describer (Date): Linnaeus (1758)
Species: Panthera leo
Subspecies currently recognized (IUCN revisions in progress):
Pelage: Short, tawny-colored hair on body, face, and tail. Many males with mane; some without. Black tuft on tail tip. Cub have spots that fade with age.
Tail length: 60-100 cm (2-3.3 ft)
|Distribution & Status||Behavior & Ecology|
Distribution: Sub-Saharan Africa and southwest India (population in Asia). Populations often small and isolated. Occupy a mere 8% of their historic range.
U.S. Endangered Species Act:
Locomotion: Walking speed of 3-4 km/hr (1.86-2.49 mph). Bursts of speed up to 45-60 km/hr (24-37 mph) for short distances (100-200 m).
Communication: Many forms. Reinforce social bonds with social licking and head/body rubs. Use facial expressions, body postures, and behavioral displays to convey mood and intent. Variety of vocalizations: roar, grunt, growl, miaow, purr, puff, to name a few. Scent marking and smell an important channel of communication with other lions.
Prey: Large variety of prey. Medium to large-sized ungulates make up bulk of diet. Hunt and scavenge. Wildebeest, zebra, water buffalo, impala, warthog, and waterbuck frequently taken. Will also feed on smaller or unsual prey.
|Reproduction & Development||Species Highlights|
Sexual Maturity: Males: about 24 months. Females: first conception at about 43 months, but varies substantially with habitat.
The only truly social cats
Disappearing from large parts of Africa
Lions and San Diego Zoo Global
About This Fact Sheet
© San Diego Zoo Global 2016
How to cite: African and Asian Lions (Panthera leo) Fact Sheet, 2016. c2016. San Diego (California, USA): San Diego Zoo Global; [accessed YYYY MM DD]. http://ielc.libguides.com/sdzg/factsheets/lions
(note: replace with actual date accessed, e.g., 2016 Aug 01)
Disclaimer: Although San Diego Zoo Global makes every attempt to provide accurate information, some of the facts provided may become outdated or replaced by new research findings. Questions and comments may be addressed to email@example.com.
Thank you to these lion experts for generously providing content review of this fact sheet.
Dr. Laura Bertola: Taxonomy
- Dr. Bertola, postdoc at Leiden Univeristy, Netherlands, applies the study of genetics to issues in conservation biology
- During her PhD research, she applied various genetic techniques to gain insight into the distribution of lion genetic diversity
Dr. Paul Funston: Behavior & Ecology, Reproduction & Development
- Senior Director of Pathera's Lion and Cheetah programs (as of December 2016)
- Expert in the behavioral ecology of lions and other large carnivores
- Long-term interests in the conservation and management of African lion populations
- Link to Paul's extensive list of publications
Dr. Zeke Davidson: Diet & Feeding
- Through his expertise in behavioral ecology and conservation, Dr. Davidson lends scientific support and leadership to projects in Kenya related to large carnivore resource use, human-wildlife conflict, and habitat conservation.
- He helps to develop research initiatives and teaches for Marwell Wildlife in Kenya, Smithsonian Institution, and York University.
- Link to research profile
Mr. Tony Franceschiello: Managed Care
- Mr. Franceschiello, a Senior Mammal Keeper with the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, has a wealth of experience in caring for big cats, including lions, cheetahs, mountain lions, and tigers (plus many other mammals).
- He has been working with the Safari Park’s lions since 2005.
- Mr. Franceschiello says the most rewarding aspects of his work are having been involved with all lion litters born at the Safari Park, from conception through adulthood, and being viewed as a pride member by the lions he cares for.
Lion by Deidre Jackson (2010)
A bold, fascinating read that brings together historical, biographical, cultural, and conservation perspectives on lions. Eloquently written and researched. Incredible collection of art history photographs and literary references.
San Diego Zoo Global staff and volunteers
Email the SDZG Library to request to checkout this book: firstname.lastname@example.org
"Hot on Your Tail"
Two young cubs play a game of chase.
Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Global. All rights reserved.