From the Desk of Dan Ashe

5 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About African Lions

Fun Facts about Lions

In honor of World Lion Day on August 10, we’re sharing a few fun facts about one of our favorite animals: lions. 

lion climbing tree

Lions are adept animals capable of climbing trees and traversing a variety of terrains.


1. They can climb trees.

Lions can run as fast as 50mph in short sprints, but did you know they are able to quickly  climb trees as well? Lions are adept hunters capable of climbing trees to hunt their prey. Due to their survival skills, lions are able to thrive in a variety of environments, and they can be found in various habitats in Africa such as:

  • Deserts
  • Dry forests
  • Grasslands
  • Scrub
  • Woodlands

Female lion with lion cub

Female lions leave their pride for a period of time when it's time to give birth in order to care for their cubs.


2. Females temporarily leave the pride to give birth.

When it’s time to give birth, female lions will leave the pride for several weeks in order to acclimate their young to their new environment. During this time, cubs are taught basic social rules and are supervised by their mothers until they are ready to return to their pride. When cubs are introduced to their pride, their mother and other females,  as well as males, play an active role in social instruction and protection. When they reach maturity, the male lions will likely leave to find a new pride, often consisting of females who are related to each other.

Group of female lions watching over cubs

Female lions are not competitive and even hunt, eat, and raise their cubs together.


3. Females don’t typically compete with each other. 

Unlike other species who form social packs, female lions don’t typically compete with one another for hunting or mating privileges, but instead, respect the personal boundaries of other females within the group. In fact, female lions and their young tend to form communities who hunt and eat together, and many female lions stay with their pride throughout their lifetime.

Lion sleeping in tree

Lions typically sleep at least 17 hours per day.


4. They enjoy naps too.

Lions are primarily nocturnal creatures and tend to spend most of the daylight hours sleeping. Lions  average around 19 hours of sleep per day. A typical day in the life of a lion may include 1-3 hours of traveling and 1-2 hours of hunting. Lions typically travel between 2-3 miles per day to find food, but they may travel even further, as far as 8 miles each day, if food is scarce.

Lion laying in open field

African lions are considered an endangered species, but efforts are being made to restore and protect wild lion populations.


5. They’re an endangered species.

Unfortunately, lion populations in the wild are declining across the globe. African lion populations have declined as much as 50% in the last quarter century  and it’s likely that fewer than 20,000 remain in the wild, according to the Lion Recovery Fund. Lions are amazing, magnificent creatures whose beauty should be preserved for future generations, but they are also vital members of a complex food chain, and measures should be taken to preserve their existence.

How do lions help their environment?

There’s a reason lions are known as the “King.” Lions play an important role in their ecosystems by serving as large predators that control the populations of animals both large and small. While lions typically hunt small game, they occasionally hunt larger animals such as zebras, hippos, giraffes, rhinos, and other sizeable animals. Without lions, ecosystems are at risk for overpopulation of other large predators that can lead to the extinction of smaller species. 

Why are lions endangered?

Lions face a number of threats which have contributed to the large decline in their population, including: 

  • Habitat loss
  • Human conflict
  • Illegal poaching 
  • Disease

In some regions like West Africa, lions have already nearly disappeared. According to the Lion Recovery Fund, half of the wild lion population has diminished in the last 25 years alone. However organizations like Lion Recovery Fund and AZA are working across Africa to double the number of lions in the wild by 2050.

lion with long mane

Without conservation efforts, lions may become extinct.


How can we protect lions?

Because lions are essential to the health of their ecosystems, it’s important to not only make efforts to ensure their survival for their own sake, but for that of other species as well. Here are just a few ways we can help protect lions. 

1. Spread the word about World Lion Day.

World Lion Day began in an effort to raise awareness of the importance of lion conservation. Each year, dozens of organizations, including AZA, work together to promote awareness of this endangered species and to raise funds for research and conservation programs that contribute to species survival efforts, including: 

Share the news on social media using the hashtag #WorldLionDay, and let your friends and family know that you support wildlife conservation efforts aiming to protect lions and their habitats.

2. Support SAFE African Lion’s efforts.

Lions consistently rank among the most frequently targeted species for AZA’s conservation efforts in the wild.  AZA-accredited zoos and aquariums contributed over $1 million to lion conservation in 2018. Through the Saving Animals From Extinction (SAFE) program, the SAFE African Lion is partnering with WCN Lion Recovery Fund and field partners to double the number of wild lions in African by 2050. 

3. Support AZA’s Mission to Protect and Preserve Wildlife.

AZA and our members work to support thousands of species around the world, including lions. In fact, the African Lion Species Survival Plan ® (SSP) Program won AZA’s 2018 SSP Sustainability Award for species conservation, research, and educational initiatives. 

View our database of Species Survival Programs® and AZA Taxon Advisory Groups to learn more about what’s being done to protect wildlife around the world. 


4. Support AZA and African Lions Through Wildlife Wine Club

In partnership with the Wildlife Wine Club, AZA has a new wine series to support AZA SAFE: Saving Animals From Extinction. 100% of AZA’s net proceeds support SAFE conservation programs and animal welfare worldwide. The first two releases, the African Lion Cabernet Sauvignon and Sea Turtle Monterey Chardonnay, feature endangered species that need protection now.

Image of Wildlife Wine Club logo

Posted by Ashley Jones at 3:00 PM

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