Lions in Pilanesberg
The lion can live 10-14 years in the wild and 20+ years in captivity. Males in the wild rarely live past 10 years of age, due to rivalry and fights with other males. They are the tallest (in shoulder height) of all felines. Their coat colour varies from yellowish, red to dark brown.
The lion’s under parts are lighter, with a black tail tuft. A male lion weighs between 150-250kg, and the female weighs 120-182kg. Head and body length is 170-250cm for males, and 14-175cm for females. Shoulder height is 123cm for males, and 91cm for females. The characteristic shared by both male and female lions is the hairy tuft at the end of the tail. The tuft develops in cubs at 5 ½ months, and is fully visible at 7 months.
The male adult lion’s mane makes him appear larger, and this is an intimidation tactic. The white lion is a special morph with a genetic condition (leucism; causes paler colouration). Lions rest for 20 hours of the day, and hunting usually occurs at dawn. 2 hours of the day are spent walking, while 50 minutes are spent eating. A lion in captivity will sleep for 13.5 hours each day. Their social grouping is divided into prides and nomads.
A pride consist of 5/6 related females, their cubs and one male. Their area is called a pride area. Nomads walk widely and sporadically, either alone or in pairs. Their area is called a range. Male cubs need to leave the pride at 2-3 years of age. Lionesses do most of the hunting, but if a male is nearby he will dominate the kill. A male is more likely to share with cubs than with lionesses, but if he caught the kill on his own he won’t share with anyone.
Prey consists of wildebeest, zebras, impalas, buffalo and warthogs. A male lion requires about 7kg of meat daily, and a female requires 5kg. There is no specific mating period for the lions. A female will mate with more than one male, while she is in heat. The gestation period lasts 110 days, and 1-4 cubs are born per litter. Cubs weigh between 1.2-2.1kg at birth, and are blind. They can crawl one or two days after birth, and start to walk after 3 days.
Until the cubs are 6-8 weeks old, the mother stays in isolation from the rest of her pride. 80% of cubs die before they turn 2. Weaning takes place at around 6-7 months. Males mature at ±3 years old, and can challenge other males at 4-5 years old. The lion’s roar can be heard from 8km away. While the lion is at the top of the food chain and has no predators, it mostly dies a violent death due to humans or other lions.