Scientific Name : Panthera leo
The lion is the only truly social member of the cat family, with prides typically consisting of related females and their offspring. Male cubs are ejected from the pride when they approach maturity, whereas female cubs stay on as a second or third generation. Mothers help to raise one anotherís offspring, with litters often being synchronised. Prides are usually lorded over by adult males (normally two or three) which are often related (brothers). The males defend a territory larger in size than the home range of the lionesses and often rule over two or more prides. Lions are the super predators of Africa. By and large, zebra, wildebeest and buffalo are the preferred prey, but this always depends upon the size of the pride, the terrain and the density of particular prey species. Only large prides will tackle buffalo, and - even then - males are often called upon to deliver the killing bite. Some prides specialise in certain species and develop effective hunting techniques for giraffe, warthog and others. One reason for living in a pride is not only to be tackling large prey but also to defend it. The spotted hyena is their main rival, and large clans of these tenacious carnivores are able to dispossess the big cats of their kills. Terrific battles may ensue between these competing predators, although the involvement of a big male lion invariably swings the balance. Since any predator has to avoid injury if it is to survive, lions will usually target the easiest available prey, preferring a limping zebra foal to a vigorous stallion. A substantial part of any lionís diet comes from pirating prey from other carnivores (particularly cheetah) and from scavenging from natural mortalities. The lionís historical range in Africa has contracted by about two thirds, and they are now largely confined to the more extensive protected areas. A few prides have, however, been successfully reintroduced to newly-created conservation areas.