Jukani Wildlife Sanctuary, Plettenberg Bay, Garden Route Adventures South Africa
Tawny Lion

male tawny lion

 

There are 6 twany lions at Jukani Wildlife Sanctuary, their names are Grompie, Kara, Queenie, Allain, Modjadji and Christine.

The lion Panthera leo is one of the four big cats in the genus Panthera, and a member of the family Felidae. With some males exceeding 250 kg (550 lb) in weight, it is the second-largest living cat after the tiger. Wild lions currently exist in Sub-Saharan Africa and in Asia with an endangered remnant population in Gir Forest National Park in India, having disappeared from North Africa and Southwest Asia in historic times. Until the late Pleistocene, about 10,000 years ago, the lion was the most widespread large land mammal after humans.  

Highly distinctive, the male lion is easily recognised by its mane, and its face is one of the most widely recognised animal symbols in human culture.  

The lion's name, similar in many Romance languages, is derived from the Latin leo; and the Ancient Greek (leon). The Hebrew word (lavi) may also be related. It was one of the many species originally described by Linnaeus, who gave it the name Felis leo, in his eighteenth century work, Systema Naturae.

Characteristics

The lion is the tallest (at the shoulder) of all living cats, averaging about 14 cm (5.5 in) taller than the tiger. Behind only the tiger, the lion is the second largest living felid in length and weight. Its skull is very similar to that of the tiger, although the frontal region is usually more depressed and flattened, with a slightly shorter postorbital region. The lion's skull has broader nasal openings than the tiger. However, due to the amount of skull variation in the two species, usually, only the structure of the lower jaw can be used as a reliable indicator of species. Lion colouration varies from light buff to yellowish, reddish, or dark ochraceous brown. The underparts are generally lighter and the tail tuft is black. Lion cubs are born with brown rosettes (spots) on their body, rather like those of a leopard. Although these fade as lions reach adulthood, faint spots often may still be seen on the legs and underparts, particularly on lionesses.
 
Lions are the only members of the cat family to display obvious sexual dimorphism - that is, males and females look distinctly different. They also have specialised roles that each gender plays in the pride. For instance, the lioness, the hunter, lacks the male's thick mane. The colour of the male's mane varies from blond to black, generally becoming darker as the lion grows older.

During confrontations with others, the mane makes the lion look larger.

Weights for adult lions range between 150–250 kg (330–550 lb) for males and 120–182 kg (264–400 lb) for females. Nowell and Jackson report average weights of 181 kg (400 lb) for males and 126 kg (280 lb) for females. Lions tend to vary in size depending on their environment and area, resulting in a wide spread in recorded weights. For instance, lions in southern Africa tend to be about 5 percent heavier than those in East Africa, in general.
 
Head and body length is 170–250 cm (5 ft 7 in – 8 ft 2 in) in males and 140–175 cm (4 ft 7 in – 5 ft 9 in) in females; shoulder height is up to 123 cm (4 ft) in males and as low as 91 cm (3 ft) in females. The tail length is 90–105 cm (2 ft 11 in - 3 ft 5 in) in males and 70–100 cm in females (2 ft 4 in – 3 ft 3 in).  

The most distinctive characteristic shared by both females and males is that the tail ends in a hairy tuft. In some lions, the tuft conceals a hard "spine" or "spur", approximately 5 mm long, formed of the final sections of tail bone fused together. The lion is the only felid to have a tufted tail - the function of the tuft and spine are unknown. Absent at birth, the tuft develops around 5½ months of age and is readily identifiable at 7 months.
 
Mane
 
The mane of the adult male lion, unique among cats, is one of the most distinctive characteristics of the species. It makes the lion appear larger, providing an excellent intimidation display; this aids the lion during confrontations with other lions and with the species' chief competitor in Africa, the spotted hyena. The presence, absence, colour, and size of the mane is associated with genetic precondition, sexual maturity, climate, and testosterone production; the rule of thumb is the darker and fuller the mane, the healthier the lion. Sexual selection of mates by lionesses favors males with the densest, darkest mane. Research in Tanzania also suggests mane length signals fighting success in male - male relationships. Darker-maned individuals may have longer reproductive lives and higher offspring survival, although they suffer in the hottest months of the year. In prides including a coalition of two or three males, it is possible that lionesses solicit mating more actively with the males who are more heavily maned.
 
 
Behaviour
 
Lions spend much of their time resting and are inactive for about 20 hours per day. Although lions can be active at any time, their activity generally peaks after dusk with a period of socializing, grooming, and defecating. Intermittent bursts of activity follow through the night hours until dawn, when hunting most often takes place. They spend an average of two hours a day walking and 50 minutes eating.
 
Group organization
 
Lions are the most socially inclined of all wild felids, most of which remain quite solitary in nature.

Hunting and diet

While a lioness such as this one has very sharp teeth, prey is usually killed by strangulation. Lions are powerful animals that usually hunt in coordinated groups and stalk their chosen prey. However, they are not particularly known for their stamina - for instance, a lioness' heart makes up only 0.57 percent of her body weight (a male's is about 0.45 percent of his body weight), whereas a hyena's heart is close to 1 percent of its body weight. Thus, they only run fast in short bursts, and need to be close to their prey before starting the attack. They take advantage of factors that reduce visibility; many kills take place near some form of cover or at night. They sneak up to the victim until they reach a distance of around 30 metres (98 ft) or less. The lioness is the one who does the hunting for the pride, since the lioness is more aggressive by nature. The male lion usually stays and watches its young while waiting for the lionesses to return from the hunt.

Reproduction and life cycle
 
Most lionesses will have reproduced by the time they are four years of age. Lions do not mate at any specific time of year, and the females are polyestrous. As with other cats, the male lion's penis has spines which point backwards. Upon withdrawal of the penis, the spines rake the walls of the female's vagina, which may cause ovulation. A lioness may mate with more than one male when she is in heat; during a mating bout, which could last several days, the couple copulates twenty to forty times a day and are likely to forgo eating. Lions reproduce very well in captivity.


The average gestation period is around 110 days, the female giving birth to a litter of one to four cubs in a secluded den (which may be a thicket, a reed-bed, a cave or some other sheltered area) usually away from the rest of the pride. The lioness moves her cubs to a new den site several times a month, carrying them one by one by the nape of the neck, to prevent scent from building up at a single den site and thus avoiding the attention of predators that may harm the cubs.
 
Usually, the mother does not integrate herself and her cubs back into the pride until the cubs are six to eight weeks old. However, sometimes this introduction to pride life occurs earlier, particularly if other lionesses have given birth at about the same time. 

The tolerance of male lions towards the cubs varies. They are, however, generally more likely to share food with the cubs than with the lionesses.

Weaning occurs after six to seven months. Male lions reach maturity at about 3 years of age and, at 4–5 years of age, are capable of challenging and displacing the adult male(s) associated with another pride. They begin to age and weaken between 10 and 15 years of age at the latest, if they have not already been critically injured while defending the pride (once ousted from a pride by rival males, male lions rarely manage a second take-over).  

Contrary to popular belief, it is not only males that are ousted from their pride to become nomads, although most females certainly do remain with their birth pride. However, when the pride becomes too large, the next generation of female cubs may be forced to leave to eke out their own territory. Furthermore, when a new male lion takes over the pride, subadult lions, both male and female, may be evicted. Life is harsh for a female nomad. Nomadic lionesses rarely manage to raise their cubs to maturity, without the protection of other pride members. 
 
Health
 
Although adult lions have no natural predators, evidence suggests that the majority die violently from humans or other lions. Lions often inflict serious injuries on each other, either members of different prides encountering each other in territorial disputes, or members of the same pride fighting at a kill. Crippled lions and lion cubs may fall victim to hyenas, leopards, or be trampled by buffalo or elephants, and careless lions may be maimed when hunting prey.
 

Communication

When resting, lion socialization occurs through a number of behaviours, and the animal's expressive movements are highly developed. The most common peaceful tactile gestures are head rubbing and social licking, which have been compared with grooming in primates. Head rubbing - nuzzling one's forehead, face and neck against another lion - appears to be a form of greeting, as it is seen often after an animal has been apart from others, or after a fight or confrontation.  

Lions most often roar at night; the sound, which can be heard from a distance of 8 kilometres (5.0 mi), is used to advertise the animal's presence. Lions have the loudest roar of any big cat.
 
Distribution and habitat

In Africa, lions can be found in savanna grasslands with scattered Acacia trees which serve as shade; their habitat in India is a mixture of dry savanna forest and very dry deciduous scrub forest. The habitat of lions originally spanned the southern parts of Eurasia, ranging from Greece to India, and most of Africa except the central rainforest-zone and the Sahara desert.  

Population and conservation status

Conservation of both African and Asian lions has required the setup and maintenance of national parks and game reserves; among the best known are Etosha National Park in Namibia, Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, and Kruger National Park in eastern South Africa.  
 
Man-eaters
 
While lions do not usually hunt people, some (usually males) seem to seek out human prey; well-publicised cases include the Tsavo maneaters, where 28 railway workers building the Kenya-Uganda Railway were taken by lions over nine months during the construction of a bridge over the Tsavo River in Kenya in 1898, and the 1991 Mfuwe man-eater, which killed six people in the Laungwa River Valley in Zambia. In both, the hunters who killed the lions wrote books detailing the animals' predatory behaviour. The Mfuwe and Tsavo incidents bear similarities: the lions in both incidents were larger than normal, lacked manes, and seemed to suffer from tooth decay. The infirmity theory, including tooth decay, is not favored by all researchers; an analysis of teeth and jaws of man-eating lions in museum collections suggests that, while tooth decay may explain some incidents, prey depletion in human-dominated areas is a more likely cause of lion predation on humans.

Captive history

Lions were kept and bred by Assyrian kings as early as 850 BC, and Alexander the Great was said to have been presented with tame lions by the Malhi of northern India. Later in Roman times, lions were kept by emperors to take part in the gladiator arenas. Roman notables, including Sulla, Pompey, and Julius Caesar, often ordered the mass slaughter of hundreds of lions at a time. In the East, lions were tamed by Indian princes, and Marco Polo reported that Kublai Khan kept lions inside. The first European "zoos" spread amongst noble and royal families in the thirteenth century, and until the seventeenth century were called seraglios; at that time, they came to be called menageries, an extension of the cabinet of curiosities. They spread from France and Italy during the Renaissance to the rest of Europe. In England, although the seraglio tradition was less developed, Lions were kept at the Tower of London in a seraglio established by King John in the thirteenth century, probably stocked with animals from an earlier menagerie started in 1125 by Henry I at his palace in Woodstock, near Oxford; where lions had been reported stocked by William of Malmesbury.
 
Seraglios served as expressions of the nobility's power and wealth. Animals such as big cats and elephants, in particular, symbolised power, and would be pitted in fights against each other or domesticated animals. By extension, menageries and seraglios served as demonstrations of the dominance of humanity over nature. Consequently, the defeat of such natural "lords" by a cow in 1682 astonished the spectators, and the flight of an elephant before a rhinoceros drew jeers. Such fights would slowly fade out in the seventeenth century with the spread of the menagerie and their appropriation by the commoners. The tradition of keeping big cats as pets would last into the nineteenth century, at which time it was seen as highly eccentric.

The presence of lions at the Tower of London was intermittent, being restocked when a monarch or his consort, such as Margaret of Anjou the wife of Henry VI, either sought or were given animals. Records indicate they were kept in poor conditions there in the seventeenth century, in contrast to more open conditions in Florence at the time. The menagerie was open to the public by the eighteenth century; admission was a sum of three half-pence or the supply of a cat or dog for feeding to the lions. A rival menagerie at the Exeter Exchange also exhibited lions until the early nineteenth century. The Tower menagerie was closed down by William IV, and animals transferred to the London Zoo which opened its gates to the public on 27 April 1828.

Wild animal trade

The wild animals trade flourished alongside improved colonial trade of the nineteenth century. Lions were considered fairly common and inexpensive. Although they would barter higher than tigers, they were less costly than larger, or more difficult to transport animals such as the giraffe and hippopotamus, and much less than pandas. Like other animals, lions were seen as little more than a natural, boundless commodity that was mercilessly exploited with terrible losses in capture and transportation. The widely reproduced imagery of the heroic hunter chasing lions would dominate a large part of the century. Explorers and hunters exploited a popular Manichean division of animals into "good" and "evil" to add thrilling value to their adventures, casting themselves as heroic figures. This resulted in big cats, always suspected of being man-eaters, representing "both the fear of nature and the satisfaction of having overcome it."

Lion-baiting

Lion-baiting is a horrid blood sport involving the baiting of lions in combat with other animals, usually dogs. Records of it exist in ancient times through until the seventeenth century. It was thankfully finally banned in Vienna by 1800 and England in 1825.
 
Lion taming

Lion taming refers to the practice of taming lions for entertainment, either as part of an established circus or as an individual act, such as Siegfried & Roy. The term is also often used for the taming and display of other big cats such as tigers, leopards, and cougars. The practice was pioneered in the first half of the nineteenth century by Frenchman Henri Martin and American Isaac Van Amburgh who both toured widely, and whose techniques were copied by a number of followers. The ultimate proof of a tamer's dominance and control over a lion is demonstrated by placing his head in the lion's mouth.

Cultural depictions

The lion has been an icon for humanity for thousands of years, appearing in cultures across Europe, Asia, and Africa. Despite incidents of attacks on humans, lions have enjoyed a positive depiction in culture as strong but noble. A common depiction is their representation as "king of the jungle" or "king of beasts"; hence, the lion has been a popular symbol of royalty and stateliness, as well as a symbol of bravery; it is featured in several fables of the 6th century BC Greek storyteller Aesop.
 
Representations of lions date back 32,000 years; the lion-headed ivory carving from Vogelherd cave in the Swabian Alb in southwestern Germany has been determined to be about 32,000 years old from the Aurignacian culture. Two lions were depicted mating in the Chamber of Felines in 15,000-year-old Paleolithic cave paintings in the Lascaux caves. Cave lions are also depicted in the Chauvet Cave, discovered in 1994; this has been dated at 32,000 years of age, though it may be of similar or younger age to Lascaux.
 
Ancient Egypt venerated the lioness (the fierce hunter) as their war deities and among those in the Egyptian pantheon are, Bast, Mafdet, Menhit, Pakhet, Sekhmet, Tefnut, and the Sphinx; The Nemean lion was symbolic in Ancient Greece and Rome, represented as the constellation and zodiac sign Leo, and described in mythology, where its skin was borne by the hero Heracles. The lion was a prominent symbol in ancient Mesopotamia (from Sumer up to Assyrian and Babylonian times), where it was strongly associated with kingship. The classic Babylonian lion motif, found as a statue, carved or painted on walls, is often referred to as the striding lion of Babylon. It is in Babylon that the biblical Daniel is said to have been delivered from the lion's den.
 
In the Puranic texts of Hinduism, Narasimha ("man-lion") a half-lion, half-man incarnation or (avatar) of Vishnu, is worshipped by his devotees and saved the child devotee Prahlada from his father, the evil demon king Hiranyakashipu; Vishnu takes the form of half-man/half-lion, in Narasimha, having a human torso and lower body, but with a lion-like face and claws. Singh is an ancient Indian vedic name meaning "lion" (Asiatic lion), dating back over 2000 years to ancient India. It was originally only used by Rajputs a Hindu Kshatriya or military caste in India. After the birth of the Khalsa brotherhood in 1699, the Sikhs also adopted the name "Singh" due to the wishes of Guru Gobind Singh. Along with millions of Hindu Rajputs today, it is also used by over 20 million Sikhs worldwide. Found famously on numerous flags and coats of arms all across Asia and Europe, the Asiatic lions also stand firm on the National Emblem of India. Further south on the Indian subcontinent, the Asiatic lion is symbolic for the Sinhalese, Sri Lanka's ethnic majority; the term derived from the Indo-Aryan Sinhala, meaning the "lion people" or "people with lion blood", while a sword wielding lion is the central figure on the national flag of Sri Lanka.

The Asiatic lion is a common motif in Chinese art. They were first used in art during the late Spring and Autumn Period (fifth or sixth century BC), and became much more popular during the Han Dynasty (206 BC – AD 220), when imperial guardian lions started to be placed in front of imperial palaces for protection. Because lions have never been native to China, early depictions were somewhat unrealistic; after the introduction of Buddhist art to China in the Tang Dynasty (after the sixth century AD), lions were usually depicted without wings, their bodies became thicker and shorter, and their manes became curly. The lion dance is a form of traditional dance in Chinese culture in which performers mimic a lion's movements in a lion costume, often with musical accompaniment from cymbals, drums and gongs. They are performed at Chinese New Year, the August Moon Festival and other celebratory occasions for good luck.

Did you know?

"Lion" was the nickname of several medieval warrior rulers with a reputation for bravery, such as the English King Richard the Lionheart, Henry the Lion (German: Heinrich der Löwe), Duke of Saxony and Robert III of Flanders nicknamed "The Lion of Flanders"- a major Flemish national icon up to the present. Lions are frequently depicted on coats of arms, either as a device on shields themselves, or as supporters. (The lioness is much more infrequent.) The formal language of heraldry, called blazon, employs French terms to describe the images precisely. Such descriptions specified whether lions or other creatures were "rampant" or "passant", that is whether they were rearing or crouching. The lion is used as a symbol of sporting teams, from national association football teams such as England, Scotland and Singapore to famous clubs such as the Detroit Lions of the NFL, Chelsea and Aston Villa of the English Premier League, (and the Premiership itself) to a host of smaller clubs around the world.
 
Lions continue to feature in modern literature, from the messianic Aslan in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and following books from The Chronicles of Narnia series written by C. S. Lewis, to the comedic Cowardly Lion in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The advent of moving pictures saw the continued presence of lion symbolism; one of the most iconic and widely recognised lions is Leo the Lion, which has been the mascot for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) studios since the 1920s.The 1960s saw the appearance of what is possibly the most famous lioness, the Kenyan animal Elsa in the movie Born Free, based on the true-life international bestselling book of the same title. The lion's role as King of the Beasts has been used in cartoons, from the 1950s manga which gave rise to the first Japanese colour TV animation series, Kimba the White Lion, Leonardo Lion of King Leonardo and his Short Subjects, both from the 1960s, up to the 1994 Disney animated feature film The Lion King, which also featured the popular song "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" in its soundtrack. A lion appears on the 50-rand South African banknote.

Lions have been known to breed with tigers (most often the Siberian and Bengal subspecies) to create hybrids called ligers and tiglons (or tigons). They also have been crossed with leopards to produce leopons, and jaguars to produce jaglions. The marozi is reputedly a spotted lion or a naturally occurring leopon, while the Congolese Spotted Lion is a complex lion-jaguar-leopard hybrid called a lijagulep. Such hybrids were once commonly bred in zoos, but this is now discouraged due to the emphasis on conserving species and subspecies.

The liger is a cross between a male lion and a tigress. Because the growth-inhibiting gene from the female tiger is absent, a growth-promoting gene is passed on by the male lion, the resulting ligers grow far larger than either parent. They share physical and behavioural qualities of both parent species (spots and stripes on a sandy background). Male ligers are sterile, but female ligers are often fertile. Males have about a 50 percent chance of having a mane, but if they grow one, their manes will be modest: around 50 percent of a pure lion mane. Ligers are typically between 3.0 and 3.7 m (10 to 12 feet) in length, and can be between 360 and 450 kg (800 to 1,000 pounds) or more. The less common tiglon or tigon is a cross between a lioness and a male tiger. In contrast to ligers, tigons are often relatively small in comparison to their parents, because of reciprocal gene effects.

 

Jukani lion yawning
Jukani lion yawning

lion mum and daughter
lion mum and daughter

Allain the lion
Allain the lion

sleeping lion
sleeping lion

tawny lion cub
tawny lion cub

young tawny lion
young tawny lion

tawny lion close-up
tawny lion close-up

tawny lions relaxing
tawny lions relaxing

lions at Jukani Wildlife Sanctuary
lions at Jukani Wildlife Sanctuary

male tawny lion
male tawny lion

female tawny lion
female tawny lion

lion being coy
lion being coy

lion eye
lion eye

lion paw
lion paw

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