Monday 14 June 2021

What is the African lion's habitat?

Often people see the African lion ambling across the well-known Serengeti plains of East Africa. The Serengeti has wooded grasslands and rolling short grass plains which is quite different from the lion's habitat over much of its distribution in Africa. In general, lions live in "woodlands, dry forest, scrub, and even deserts. Visibility is the common factor throughout the various habitat types; compared with tigers, jaguars, and leopards, lions are at home in more open areas". I have taken the liberty of quoting directly from the best book on the wild cat species: Wild Cats of the World.

This is Cecil the lion. He was famous as a Walter Palmer, an America dentist tried to kill him with a bow and arrow. He failed and hie guide finished the job. There was international uproar. It is etched in the minds of millions even today as a senseless act of mindless bloodlust. Photo in public domain. The background shows you the kind of habitat the lion enjoys.

Lions are adequate climbers but less good than some other wild cat species and they are primarily terrestrial in comparison to some wild cat species such as the margay which is very much an arboreal cat i.e. it lives in trees.

It may interest readers to know that the male lions of the Gir Forest in India patrol ranges of 100-400 km² while lionesses have home ranges of about 50 km². The size of the home range depends largely on the biomass of prey available during lean times. In the prey-rich Serengeti woodlands lion prides have home territories of about 65 km² whereas prides living on the planes require over 184 km² during lean times. To be clear, this is approximately a 30 km x 60 km area of land. You can see how large the required habitat is for an African lion.

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