The lions are in the spotlight, so here are some facts about the powerful predators
With England facing Belgium at the World Cup, it’s a week for lions; three maned males feature on the England football team’s logo, and the lion is the national animal of both countries. If you’re more interested in the animals than the sport, we’re here to help – check out the list below to learn more about the king of the cats.
1. Lions are the only truly social big cats. Some, like cheetahs, will occasionally form temporary groups, but lions spend their lives in prides. These prides usually have about 15 members, but have been observed with as many as 40.
2. Despite being known as ‘the king of the jungle’, you won’t find a lion among dense tropical vegetation – they live on grasslands and savannah.
3. Males disperse from the group they were born into when they reach maturity, sometimes with their brothers, and challenge other males for leadership of their prides. Females stay in the same group and remain with their female relatives for life.
4. They’re the second largest of the big cats, coming in after the tiger.
5. England and Belgium aren’t the only countries to have chosen the lion to represent them; it’s also the national animal of Singapore, Bulgaria, Albania, Ethiopia, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.
6. Lions are fierce, but only when they need to be; they spend around 20 hours a day resting and sleeping.
7. Lions are now found in Africa and a small area of India, but they once roamed Europe, Asia and the Middle East as well.
8. Africa’s lion population is believed to have halved in the last 30 years and it’s predicted that, if the situation doesn’t improve, they could go extinct by 2050.
9. To keep in contact and let other prides know they’re around, lions produce roars that can be heard eight kilometres (five miles) away – the loudest noise of any cat.
10. Female lions begin to hunt at two years old. They’ll eat small animals like rodents and lizards if they have to, but a group working together can bring down bigger prey like zebra and wildebeest.
Photo: Willem Van Valkenburg/flickr