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Lions
Photos by Lencho Guerra

African LionsScientific Name:
Panthera leo

Status:
Vulnerable

Distribution:
Africa

African LionsHabitat:
Savanna

Diet: (Carnivore) The grasslands of the savanna are home to thousands of species of animals, all of which are important to lion habitat. Lions prey largely on hoofed animals like antelope, zebra and buffalo.

African LionsWeight:
Male African lions can reach 500 pounds and most females (lioness) weigh about 300 pounds.

General Description:
African Lions are generally tawny in color. The tuft of the tail is generally black. Young lions have faint brown spots which disappear as they mature. Like with other wild cats, these spots provide camouflage to help protect the young from predators like hyenas.

African LionsBehavior:
Lions are the only cats that live in groups called prides. A pride consists of an extended family unit with as many as 15 related females, their young, and 1-4 resident males. The size of the pride is determined by environmental factors like the availability of food and water and how successful they are in raising their young. This social system helps the pride maintain its hunting territory which is critical to the pride's long term future.

African LionsGroups of females usually hunt together for preferred prey species including wildebeest, zebra, Cape buffalo, and various species of antelope. A single female can kill smaller animals, but when they hunt larger animals like Cape buffalo and kudu the pride is more successful when they hunt as a team in cutting off all avenues of escape and in helping to bring the animal to the ground.

Did you know?
The impressive mane, which encircles the head of the adult male lion, helps the lion to attract females. Male African lions will defend their territory fiercely and mark it with urine to help convey the message to other lions to stay away. The territory of one pride of lions may include 100 square miles (about half the size of the City of El Paso) of grasslands or open woodlands.

Conservation:
African lion populations are decreasing in the wild and are listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature as Vulnerable, a rating that means that they face a high risk of extinction in the wild. In 2002 there was an estimated population of 39,000 with a 48.5% decline from a previous estimate in 1980. CBS News 60 Minutes reported in 2009 a new threat to lions from cattle ranchers in Africa who are poisoning them with a cheap American pesticide to protect their herds.

At the Zoo
Our lions were born in November of 2007 at the Oklahoma City Zoo to moms Tia and Bridget, within a three-day time span. The Zoo's resident king of the jungle, male lion Asian, was proud papa of both litters. Oklahoma City Zoo fans came up with their names in a naming contest. The female cubs were given the names Malaika (meaning "Angel"), Zari (meaning "Golden") and Kalliope (meaning "Beautiful Voice"). The male cub was named Xerxes, a Persian name meaning "Monarch."

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El Paso's Zoo Mission
Our mission is to celebrate the value of animals and natural resources and to create opportunities for people to rediscover their connection to nature.