- King of the wild 5. A big family
- Different from the others 6. Team work
- Early years 7. The lion’s responsibilities
- Hunting habits 8. Their essential diet
A. Lions have caught people’s imagination for centuries. They are stars in documentary movies and books; their images can be found on emblems, coats of arms and shields. Lions live in the jungle, open woodlands or thick grasslands where they hunt. In their environment, lions are at the top of the food chain — adult lions have no natural enemies. If we call a person ‘a lion’, it means he is strong, aggressive and important.
B. ions do not look the same as other members of the large group of cats: tigers, leopards, and jaguars. Adult male lions are much larger and have thick brown hair around their neck, which is called a mane. No other cats have manes. The mane makes the lion look more impressive and protects the animal in fights with other lions for territory.
C. Lions live in large social groups called ‘prides’. A pride can have up to thirty female lions and their children. Inside the pride there are mothers, sisters, and cousins. The pride has a close relationship and never accepts a stranger. They mark their territory by scent. There are very strict rules in the pride and everyone has to observe them.
D. Lions and lionesses have different roles in the pride. Females do most of the hunting. Together, lionesses guard and look after their cubs. The little ones feel safer and more confident with so many ‘nannies’ around. It also reduces the chance that they are left hungry. The females usually exchange their hunting and home duties during the day.
E. Male lions spend most of their day sleeping or relaxing. While it may look like the lionesses do all the work in the pride, lions play an important role too. Though they bring less food and hunt less, they mark their territory and protect it from strangers. A lion from outside the pride is very dangerous for cubs. If he gets into the pride, he may kill all the little ones there.
F. When new lions are born, they are not shown to the rest of the pride for a month, until the cubs become strong enough. Later they start playing together and have a lot of playmates. If needed, any lioness becomes their nurse and teacher. Small lions have to learn hunting and survival skills. When they are two years old, male lions leave the pride to live on their own. The females may stay with their mothers for the rest of their lives.
G. In the wild, lions eat mainly meat. That’s why they greatly depend on hunting. Their favourite dishes are zebras, deer, and even young elephants and rhinos. When hungry, they eat mice, birds and reptiles. Very rarely they may eat fruit and vegetables, but it is never their first choice. In zoos and national parks, where the lions cannot hunt, they are offered special meals made of beef and chicken.