The desert lion (Panthera leo) is a mammal of the feline family and one of the five species of large cats of the genus Panthera. The lion is the second largest feline beast after the tiger. Lions show a strong sexual dimorphism, the main and defining feature of male lions is their mane. Males weigh 150-250 kg and females 90-165 kg. In the wild, lions live to be 10-14 years old, while in captivity they can live to be 20 years old. In the past, lions were found throughout Africa, much of Asia, Europe and even America, today they are found only in Africa and a small part of India. They are social animals and hunt in packs. Their most common prey is large mammals, especially ungulates. The International Union for Conservation of Nature evaluates the lion as a vulnerable species.
Population and distribution
During the Pleistocene, lions were widespread on all continents, including America. Major changes took place at the end of the last ice age around 10,000 BC At this time, the lions disappeared from America and large parts of Europe and Asia. In Europe, the last lions were exterminated around the year 100 AD. Until then, they survived in small populations on the Iberian, Apennine and especially the Balkan Peninsula. According to Herodotus, lions were relatively common in Greece around 480 BC, stating that they attacked camels from the supply columns of King Xerxes of Persia during his campaign. Aristotle already considered lions in Greece to be rare in 300 BC. The occurrence of a lion in the Caucasus is documented in the 10th century. In Palestine, lions were extinct in the Middle Ages. With the massive expansion of firearms during the 18th century, the lion disappeared from much of its Asian grounds. At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, lions also became extinct in North Africa. The last living lion was seen in Iran in 1941. The last Eurasian lions (subspecies Panthera leo persica) now live in northwestern India. In Africa south of the Sahara, the lion is still relatively abundant.
Today, the vast majority of wild lions live in Africa, with a small population of Asian lions surviving in the Indian state of Gujarat.
The lion was exterminated in most of its original area. Today, Asian lions live only in the Gir Forest National Park in northwestern India. On an area of 1412 km2 in the forested state of Gujarat live about 650 lions. Their states remain stable.
Today, most lions live in East and South Africa, but their numbers are declining rapidly. In 2015, the African lion population was estimated at about 23,000 living in the wild (this is the smallest possible number, but the more probable estimate - the maximum number is 39,000). In the 1990s, the population was estimated at 100,000 individuals. The ever-increasing contact with people is considered to be the main reason that leads to a reduction in their condition. The remaining populations tend to be geographically isolated from each other, which can lead to so-called inbreeding - suppression of further development of the gene pool. The lion belongs to the big five African animals.
Food and hunting
Lions hunt in packs. Their prey is mainly larger mammals, such as antelopes, wildebeests, buffaloes, zebras, in India mainly deer, but also smaller animals - hares and birds. They will not despise the carcasses of animals that have killed other animals, such as hyenas, leopards, cheetahs and canines. In some localities, lions began to focus on their otherwise unusual prey, baby elephants that hunt in the Savuti River area, and also in Linyanti, where they learned to hunt hippos (Savuti and Linyanti are the rivers of Chobe National Park in Botswana). There are known cases where extreme hunger led the lion to the death of young elephants, over time they began to attack adults