Lions, with their powerful bodies and excellent senses, are formidable hunters. Lions are the only large cats that live and hunt in groups, or prides, with the females doing the majority of the hunting.
Prides vary greatly in size, but can include up to three males, around a dozen females, and their young, which are raised co-operatively. Typically, the lionesses in the pride will be related to one another, with the female cubs staying with the group for life. Young males leave the pride, often in small cohorts, and live a wandering existence until they may succeed in establishing a pride of their own by driving out and replacing other males.
Mating occurs throughout the year, with females giving birth to a litter of between one and four cubs after a 110-day gestation period.
*International Union for Conservation of Nature is the world’s main authority on the conservation status of species.
Vulnerable – lions in northern Africa are particularly threatened, with West Africa lions listed as Critically Endangered
Carnivorous – medium and large mammals such as buffalo, zebra, wildebeest, impala, warthog and occasionally giraffe and young elephants
Broad habitat tolerance across Africa, absent only from tropical rainforest and the Sahara desert
Sub-Saharan Africa and Gir forest in west India
Lion populations face a risk of extinction from numerous threats, including habitat loss due to encroachment by humans. Livestock farmers may use poisons, rifles and snares to remove lions from their land. In addition, prey species have been depleted by the bushmeat trade, and lion populations have become increasingly fragmented as a consequence. In some countries it is still legal to shoot lions for sport.
Lions also suffer in captivity and unfortunately, we often encounter lions that have been bred in captivity or captured from the wild for use in zoos and circuses, or sold as pets.
Born Free rescues vulnerable lions from appalling conditions where they have been confined, exploited or abused.
Our focus is on providing them with the best possible lifetime care at our sanctuaries, in South Africa and Ethiopia, where the big cats are housed in large, naturally-landscaped enclosures that lets them express their natural behaviour.
Every year, lions are brutally shot, trapped, poisoned and mutilated, or kept in appalling conditions and traded by criminal networks often relying on connections to political, military, border point and other facilitating networks to get their product from source to market.