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The Big Five Series – The Lion

by Noel Mutugi

photo by Felix Reinders
  • Swahili name: Simba
  • Scientific name: Panthera Leo
  • Height: 1 to 1.2m
  • Male weight – 200kg; Have Manes
  • Female weight – 150kg; have no manes
  • Gestation Period: 3.5 months; have 2 to 6 young
  • Lifespan: 15 to 20 years
  • Habitat: Savanna, moorlands, light forest
  • Food: Carnivore

The Lion is one of the largest members of the cat family. Lions are also known for their mighty roar, a fearsome sound that can be heard by humans more than 8 km (5 mi) away. The lion’s size and strength have captured human imagination since ancient times, giving these animals the nickname King of Beasts. Some quarters have argued that lions have no predators but hunters-cum-poachers as well as prevailing incidences of human-wildlife conflict have immensely reduced their numbers.

Most of their habitats have seen increased human activities, such as crop and cattle farming thus leading to high incidences of human-wildlife conflicts. According to Panthera, a leading wild cat conservation organization, “Lions are currently listed as “Vulnerable” on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species; and in West and Central Africa, the species is now classified as “Endangered.”

Statistics indicate, lions have vanished from over 80 percent of their historic range and currently exist in 28 countries in Africa and one country in Asia (India). They are extinct in 26 countries. Only 7 countries: Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe are believed to each contain more than 1,000 lions.” National Geographic sources indicate that, by the year 2009, lions were found in the wild in only two places on earth.
Lions

About 100,000 lions survived in Africa south of the Sahara Desert. Another 300 lions, called Asian lions, lived in a reserve called the Gīr National Park and Lion Sanctuary in northwest India. Currently, the number might be slightly higher or relatively similar to the latter figures. However, a number of organizations such as the Born Free Foundation and Panthera’s Projects Leonardo have come in handy to protect the Lion by mitigating human-lion conflict, and building or restoring connectivity between landscapes that are critical for the lion’s survival. For instance, Project Leonardo is empowering local communities to mitigate human-lion conflicts by improving their livestock management practices, reducing illegal hunting of lions and encouraging villagers to tap into conservation’s financial and social benefits.

World Lions’ Day – August 10

August 10 is designated as World Lion Day, aimed at raising awareness  and celebrating the importance of this beast, ultimate feline and first and the last King of the Jungle. The greatest threat to the lion is human. Human who kill and hang them as trophies celebrating achievements of what-they-are-not. Unfortunately the law gives them power, and where the law does not give them, money gives way.

The Kingdom

To date, The Lion remains the King of the Jungle. His Kingdom extended from the oropharynx of Sokoke to the anals of Jade Sea. However, if some recent events are to go by, you’ll notice that this king has not had some easy time as The Buffalo Revolution is clearly evident in his kingdom;

Lion and Buffalo fight

Lion and Buffalo fight | Watch video by  here.

This lioness by the name Siena, hit the headlines last year after being spotted by a tour driver guide from Governors Camp, Maasai Mara. She was allegedly gored by a buffalo protecting her cubs.

Siena. pic by Governors' Camp

Siena. pic by Governors’ Camp | Read full story here.

When things got tougher, the tougher got going for the king. This time round, seeking refuge on higher ground was inevitable. When the ground was no where to be found, a tree trunk came in hardy.

source: unknown

source: unknown

Pic credit: unknown

Stunning photo captured by Charles Comyn while visiting Maasai Mara National Reserve

Best places to spot Lions in Kenya

Maasai Mara National Reserve, specifically east of the Mara River. As featured on BBC’s TV series Big Cat Diaries, thats the territory of the Marsh Pride. Tsavo East Natinal Park areas surrounding the Tsavo River. At Lake Nakuru National Park you literary get a front row seat in the wild as its quit easy spot them than quit a number of parks. Nairobi National Park, Amboseli National Park, Lewa Conservancy, Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Samburu National Reserve & Meru National Park

Sources: Project Leonardo, Born Free Foundation & AWF.

About Mwaniki Mutugi (380 Articles)
Noel Mutugi is a graduate of tourism management from Moi University, a tourism, travel & conservation enthusiast and a tour consultant at Kiboko Kenya Safaris (kibokokenyasafaris.com).