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The lion (Panthera leo) is the undisputed “King of the Jungle” and is a mighty and impressive cat. It is one of five big cats from the the genus Panthera and a member of the family Felidae. The most common specie is the African lion, which as the name suggests is found in Africa, but we also offer the opportunity to see the Asiatic lion, also known as the Indian lion or Persian lion, which exists as a single population in India’s Gujarat State.

The lion is the second largest cat, after the tiger, and some males can weigh over 500lbs (250kg). Wild lions currently exist in sub-Saharan Africa and in Asia (where an endangered population of Asiatic lions live in Gir Forest National Park in India). Until 10,000 years ago the lion was the most widespread large land mammal after humans and were found in most of Africa, across Eurasia from western Europe to India, and in the Americas from the Yukon to Peru. Today the lion is a vulnerable species, having seen a major decline in population numbers due to human poaching and a significant decrease in their habitat ranges with numbers declining by approximately 30–50% for each of the last two decades. Within Africa, the West African lion population is particularly endangered.

Lions have a lifespan similar to domestic cats and generally live for 12–15 years in the wild, although females tend to have a longer life than males who seldom live longer than 10 years, due to the serious injuries that they can sustain from ongoing territorial fights with rival males. The male lion is far larger than the female and is highly distinctive and easily identified as being male by its mane. Lions will typically inhabit savannah and grassland areas, although they will also be found in thicker bush and forested areas. Lions are surprisingly a fairly social specie compared to other cats with a pride consisting of related females and their young and a small number of adult males. The adult females will typically hunt together, preying mostly on large ungulates. Lions are primarily predators and very opportunistic hunters, although they are also expert scavengers and can actually obtain half of their food source by stealing other predators kills. Lions will sleep for most of the day and can spend 15-18 hours of the day sleeping and lazing, coming alive at night as they hunt.

THE BEST PLACES TO SEE LION IN THE WILD

AfricaOkavango Delta (Botswana), Kruger National Park (South Africa), Phinda Game Reserve (South Africa), Masai Mara (Kenya), Masai Mara (Kenya), The Serengeti (Tanzania), Etosha National Park (Namibia), South Luangwa (Zambia)

South Asia / South-East AsiaGir Forest National Park (Gujarat, India).