The African lion (Panthera leo – Linnaeus, 1758) has always evoked a sense of awe and even fear. Standing 1,25m (49 inches) at the shoulder and weighing up to 238 kg (520 pounds) the lion is the largest of the African carnivores. Male lions like the one shown above often have impressive manes, which creates the illusion of making them look bigger than what they are. The flaming yellow of the eye of a lion can be fearsome to behold when it is fixed in anger (or intent) on you. Note that the people in the vehicle are all sitting down. Standing can cause the lions to become uneasy or suspicious and cause them to move off. Lion can become habituated to the close proximity of people in vehicles, which affords guests the opportunity of observing these big cats up close. Familiarity can however cause problems when lion lose their fear of humans. Yes, lions are mostly afraid of humans in the daytime and will generally run off if approached on foot. Lions which have become accustomed to humans are likely however to respond in a more unpredictable fashion if approached on foot. At night lions are in their element and become far bolder.
What can be clearly seen in the above two photographs are the white patches under the eyes of the lion. Because lion are often active and hunting at night the white patch helps to reflect available light into the eye enhancing night vision. A means of identifying individual lion is the whisker pattern, which is fairly unique to the individual. Facial scars are often a further useful means of identification of lions.
Lion prides are in a continual state of flux as dominant males vie for leadership. There is therefore a periodic displacement of members out of the pride who will move off to establish prides of their own. This is especially true of male lions. Sometimes related male lions will move off together and form a partnership or coalition, which is to their mutual advantage - not only for companionship but also from the benefits derived from hunting together. These coalitions of lion are often of long duration.
Lions cannot be regarded as the most energetic of creatures. In fact, lions are downright lazy. Their diet of energy rich protein affords them this luxury. Unlike herbivores, lions are bulk feeders and have to eat for many hours of every day. To meet their metabolic energy demands lions are forced to feed far less frequently and can exploit their carnivorous status of “king of the jungle” – by spending a large proportion of every day doing what they appear to enjoy doing, second only to eating, and that is sleeping. Male lions will eat up to 35 kg (77 pounds) and females up to 22 kg (48 pounds) at a sitting, which is more than five times their daily requirement. Hence after a good meal lion have enough energy resources to last them up to five days before they need to start looking out for their next meal.