Lions are wild mammals classified under Felidae family of Panthera Genus (like the other big cats) and assigned a specific name Panthera leo. They live in the Sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Eurasia. Lions are generally carnivores that hunt at night and during the day, and particularly eat ungulates as their main meal. They also eat zebras, young elephants and rhinos, giraffes, and other meals when the opportunity presents itself. Lions acquired the name “the king of the jungle” because of their appearance, raw strength and power, and their unique social structure of a pride. An average lion has a 10 to 14 years lifespan but can live up to 20 years in monitored captivity.
Distribution of Lions
In Africa, lions live in the Sub-Saharan region except in the equatorial rain forest and in the heavily populated regions along the southern coast of the western portion of the continent. Lions are known to typically thrive in savanna grasslands with scattered Acacia trees where they camouflage well with their surroundings. However, there are unique desert-adapted lions in the southwestern part of Africa which have evolved to withstand the harsh environment of the Namib Desert in Namibia. Most of Africa’s wild lions live in Eastern African countries like Kenya and Tanzania as well as the Southern African countries like South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia.
Previously, lions were much more widespread in Eurasia especially in southern Eurasia, ranging from Greece to India. But due to the expanding human population and interference, the species have been shrinking and are at the risk of becoming extinct. The surviving lions in Eurasia live within and around the Gir Forest of northwestern India. Approximately 500 lions live in the area of the 545.1762 square miles sanctuary in the state of Gujarat, which covers most of the forest. The Indian lion's habitat is a mixture of dry savanna forest and very dry deciduous scrub forest.
Population and Conservation
Estimates show that the lion population in African ranges between 16,500 and 47,000, which is a worrying decline compared to 100,000 in the 1990s. Most lions now live in eastern and southern Africa, and their numbers are rapidly decreasing. The number of mature lions in West Africa ranges from between 850 to 1,160. Another surviving population is in northwestern Africa, with approximately 14 to 21 lions. Both the African and Eurasia lions are under conservation within national parks and game reserves set up to preserve the dwindling species. However, some lions in Africa occasionally find themselves roaming in residential areas. Diseases and human interference have proven to be the major challenges in conservation efforts.
The lion’s general depiction in almost all the cultures of the world is that of a popular symbol of royalty and stateliness, as well as a symbol of bravery. The representation of lions in human activities has been around since the ancient times: the Nemean lion in Ancient Greece and Rome, the lioness-headed ivory carving in southwestern Germany, the lion emblem on the decorative panel of the Persian Empire, the lioness venerations of Ancient Egypt, Biblical lion emblem of the Kingdom of Judah, the lion in ancient Mesopotamia as kingship symbol, the Asiatic lion of Sinhalese and Chinese art, and the Narasimha in Hinduism texts. In Africa, the use may vary from a symbol of power and royalty in West Africa to a symbol of laziness in other East African traditions. Lions are often depicted in artistic sculptures, on coats of arms, and official logos of countries like Kenya.
About the Author
Mark is a student at Maseno University and community commentator in Kenya. Mark also has interests in geography, African history, and international development.
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