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African Lion

  • Order: Carnivora
  • Family: Felidae
  • Genus: Panthera
  • Species: leo
Fun Fact

Many people are surprised to learn that there was once a North American lion. They were much larger than today's lions and were the only North American predator large enough to hunt big bison. The North American lion disappeared about 8,000 years ago.

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About African Lions

African lions are the top predators of their range. They are large cats with males being larger than females. Males average 416 pounds, but the largest male on record weighed 600 pounds.

Lions live in groups called prides of anywhere from 2-40 individuals. Females typically stay in the pride they were born into, males often leave to form small prides of young males. Eventually these males may take over other tribes as they age.

The main duties of the dominant male are to defend the pride's territory and young from rival males. When hunting, the larger males have a difficult time blending in due to their larger mane. Thus, the females do the majority of the hunting. Often, large prey is taken when groups of lions work together, but an individual lion makes the final kill. Males tend to be the first to eat.

African Lions in the Wild


Most frequently found in savannas where prey is most prevalent. They are also able to live in forests, shrubby habitats, mountains and semi-deserts.


Once ranging from southwest Asia to Africa, today they are primarily found in sub-Saharan Africa and some protected areas in South Africa.


The largest predator in their range, lions take down zebra, wildebeest, Thompson’s gazelles, and impalas. Lions are also known to take advantage of carrion when prey is scarce or if a lion is injured and unable to hunt.

Population Status

According to IUCN’s Red List African lions are classified as “vulnerable.”  Many populations have undergone an estimated 43% decline since the mid-1990’s. Causes of this decline is due to human/livestock defense, habitat loss and prey depletion.

Field Conservation

One of the Akron Zoo’s field conservation endeavors is working with Rebuilding the Pride. The ultimate goal of this project is to establish a sustainable way of life for the people and large predators who coexist in the Southern Rift Valley of Africa. Rebuilding the Pride is working to reduce human/lion conflicts and protect lion habitat.

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