Lions are known most commonly as the king of all beasts. They are a symbol and icon of power, dominance, and intrepidness that rule over the animal kingdom. Through fossil evidence, we know that lions have dominantly ruled various lands before the Flood of Noah. Unfortunately, due to the catastrophic effects of hunting and land development, the population of lions has decreased substantially. Today, lions can only be found in two places on earth: Africa and India. Although about 100,000 lions survive in Africa, only 300 lions are left in Asia, making them an endangered species. They are now found on reserves that are known as Lion sanctuaries in northwest India. Hopefully, lions will be preserved enough that their presence will be felt for future generations to come.
The physical structure of the lion is awe-inspiring. Their features are actually quite similar to that of the tiger. Lions weigh between 150kg and 250 kg. They may stand up to 48 in tall at the shoulder. Lions are natural born predators, and in order to effectively hunt and survive, they are equipped with strong forelimbs, massive shoulders, long sharp claws, and powerful jaws. In order to bite and hold prey, they utilize their 30 teeth to pierce the flesh of their prey. The lion's fur is usually tan to reddish brown that serves the purpose of allowing them to hide so that their initial attack will go unnoticed in camouflaged environments.
Lions travel in groups called prides and coalitions. Prides consist of 2 to 12 adult females and their cubs, while coalitions consist of two to six males. The goal of the coalition is to join a pride of females and have young. When different coalitions are faced with one another, fierce competition results, and one coalition may be driven away from a pride in some cases. Statistically speaking, as many as one quarter of all cubs are killed by new members of dominating coalitions that show no care for the young of another male's offspring. Sometimes, a female is able to save her young when teamed up with others against the dominant male, but if the cub dies, she will be willing to mate once again to raise new offspring.
When a female lion is in estrus, she mates repeatedly with all of the coalition males. After the gestation of 100 days, she gives birth a liter of one to four young. She care for the young until they are eight weeks old, then introduces them to the pride after a long period of seclusion. Mothers will nurse their young for up to eight months.
The lion spends most of his or her time of the day resting or sleeping to gather energy for hunting or fending off other predators. Lions are dominant predators that do not reluctantly share their space with others, thus are very territorial in nature. They do however, welcome the presence of prey within their own boundaries which leads to various opportunities for a meal. When resting, lions do not show much in terms of their capabilities, but when time comes to hunt for a meal (usually at night), their power and speed captivates those who observe it. Female lions do the hunting while males protect the pride from intruders and other predators. Lions usually feast on large hoofed mammals such as zebras or wildebeests. In a single feeding, any given lion or lioness can consume up to 80 lbs. of meat which usually lasts them several days without another feeding. They blend into the African dry, dusty environment, moving slowly until chance permits them to hunt down their prey.