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African Lion

Panthera leo

African Lion at Henry Vilas Zoo

About African Lion

Lions are the world’s most social felines. They live in groups of related females, called prides. Over the past decade, lion populations have declined by 30 percent.

Henry Vilas Zoo works directly with the Lion Landscapes to help aid conservation efforts for large carnivores in Tanzania, like the lion. Learn more about their work here!


Lions live in a wide range of habitats, from open plains to thick brush and dry thorn forest. They only live in Africa, from the Sahara’s southern fringe to northern South Africa.


They mainly eat large animals that weigh 100 – 1,000 pounds, like zebras and wildebeests. In times of food shortage, they also catch and eat smaller animals like rodents and reptiles.

Family Life

Females usually stay in their mothers’ pride for life, while young males are driven from their pride when they grow large enough to compete with the dominant males. Males search for a pride to take over and will kill all cubs that cannot run from them. On average, they will hold leadership of a pride for two years.

Conservation Status

The conservation status of the African Lion is classified as vulnerable.
Vulnerable graphic


  • In the past decade, lion populations have declined by around 30 percent — an estimated 20,000 lions remain in the wild. After centuries of hunting, climate changes, and habitat degradation by human conflict, lions now primarily live in scattered habitats across Africa.
  • Lions face the danger of habitat loss, poisonings, and hunting, with many dying from diseases spread by domestic dogs from nearby villages.

Facts about African Lion

  • Class:
    Mammalia (mammals)
  • Order:
    Carnivora (carnivores)
  • Family:
    Felidae (cats)
  • Genus:
    Panthera (roaring cats)
  • Species:
    Panthera leo (lion)
  • Life Span:
    Male: 12 years / female: 16 years (wild) / 18 – 21 years (zoo)
  • Size:
    Standing: 3.5 – 4 feet (1 – 1.2 m)
  • Weight:
    Male: 330 – 550 pounds (149 – 249 kg) / female: 265 – 395 pounds (120 – 179 kg)
  • Tail Length:
    2 – 3 feet (0.6 – 0.9 m)
  • Length:
    Male: 10 feet (3 m) / female: 9 feet (2.7 m)

Fun Facts

  • Just ‘LION’ around! Lions spend about 20 hours per day sleeping! Late afternoons are mainly spent socializing with the pride.
  • Girl power! Female lions raise the cubs and are the primary hunters.
  • Without their coats, lion and tiger bodies are so similar that only experts can tell them apart.

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