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Program Big Cats Initiative

  • Lions are the only big cats to live in family units called prides. Other big cats live solitary lives, except when breeding or raising cubs. A lion pride may include up to three males, a dozen females, and their young. All of a pride's female lionesses and cubs are typically related. Between two and three years of age, young males leave the pride and attempt to take over another male's pride. The social structure of the pride is based on specific roles. Lionesses are the primary hunters, while dominant males are responsible for protecting the pride's territory. Lion prey includes antelopes, zebras, wildebeest, buffalo, and other grassland animals. These animals are often larger and faster than an individual lion. Lions are fierce predators that often stalk their prey before attacking. Their attacks cause prey to panic and disperse, allowing the lions to isolate and attack a weaker or slower individual. By hunting together, lions are able to exhaust and kill their prey. Sometimes they scavenge or steal from other predators like cheetahs or hyenas. Efforts to save threatened species like the African lion include the establishment of protected areas, such as the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in Tanzania.

    • Male lions fiercely protect their prides territory, which often covers about 100 square miles.
    • Lions lack the speed and endurance of many of their prey. By working as a team, they increase their odds for a successful hunt.
    • Lions are mostly found in sub-Saharan Africa, but there is a small population of Asian lions in the Gir National Forest of India.
    • Habitat loss and conflicts with humans, especially herders and poachers, threaten lion populations.
    • The Ngorongoro Conservation Area provides important habitat and protection to African lions.
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