Did you know lions have two layers of fur? Their fur helps protect them from the weather. Only the top coat is patterned. There are many interesting facts to learn about lions.
Lions have large bodies for cats. Like many big cats, the lion has strong jaws and teeth. They need strong jaws if they are going to eat what they catch. They have three kinds of teeth: the killing tooth or canine, the tearing tooth or molar, and the biting tooth or incisor. Lions have a special sense called the Jacobson’s organ. This organ is exposed when the cat curls back its lips, and it helps them “taste” the smells. Lions have a deep rib cage, a flexible spine, and very strong back and leg muscles. By using their strong muscles, they can jump long distances with great accuracy. Lions use their claws for many purposes. They will unsheathe their claws when they are hunting and eating. Their tails are tipped with a tuft of fur.
When cats hunt to survive, it takes up a lot of energy, so they need to spend about 19-20 hours per day resting. That’s mostly during the day because lions hunt at night. It’s cooler at night and lions can see in the dark like it is broad daylight. Mostly, lions will hunt by stalking in a group and ambushing their prey. Lions are the only big cats that hunt together most of the time. They will use combined strength to take down their victim. The lions have padded paws so that they cannot be heard creeping into position to kill their prey. When lions get within 150 feet (45 m) of prey, they charge. They can run up to 35 mph (56 kph) but only over short distances. The male lion’s large mane gives him away when hunting, so he is not a really good hunter. Even though lionesses do most of the hunting, the male lions get to eat first and get the best parts. They might even take a female’s share and give it to the cubs!
The pride is made up of a family of females and only a couple of males. The lionesses hunt as well as take care of the cubs. Females in a pride may give birth around the same time and feed each other’s cubs. All cubs have loose skin around their necks with which the females can carry around their cubs without hurting them. Lions can live for up to 15 years in the wild but most live to be about 8-10 years old.
Lions live on savannahs, grasslands, dense bush, and woodlands, which are quickly disappearing. Today lions live only in Africa and a little bit of India. Lions are found in every part of Africa except for the rainforest and the desert. The lion populations in central and west Africa are especially at risk. The only other way you will see a lion is at the zoo.
Many people think that disappearing habitat is the largest and most dangerous threat to lions. As more agriculture and human shelters are spreading, lions have been pushed into smaller and smaller bits of land. Even with national parks set aside for wildlife, there isn’t enough room because lions need huge territories to hunt. A single male lion needs between 20 and 200 kilometers in which to hunt. If lions would cross over the borders of the parks, they might have to deal with humans and livestock.
In the last century, lions have lost eighty percent of their range. If that continues, they'll have no place to live.
Another of the greatest threats to lions are people. People kill lions because lions sometimes kill cattle and other animals. The reason this happens is because lions are running out of room to hunt, so they kill the cattle for food.
There are many websites that offer ways to donate money to help lions. For example there are sites such as Lion Conservation.org, the Laikipia Predator Project, Samrakshan Trust, and the Kilimanjaro Lion Conservation Project. Any of these groups would be extremely grateful for any contributions you are able to make.
Another way that some countries are saving lions is to create lion trophy hunting programs. Many hunters go to Africa just to kill a lion, or other animal, in order to take home a trophy. Governments in Tanzania, Zimbabwe, and South Africa have trophy hunting programs that let hunters kill a limited number of lions in exchange for around large amounts of money such as $60,000 (US dollars). This money then goes to conservation groups who will use this money to protect lions. For example, when lions run out of prey they kill farmers' cattle. Then the farmers kill the lions. So part of this money may be given to the farmers, so they can build better fences around their cattle. This will keep the lions out of the livestock and cut down lion killings.
Some lions are also finding ways to survive on their own. When they run out of food, instead of killing livestock many lions have started to eat hippos. Smart lions!
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