(Panthera leo)

The lion is the second largest predator cat with a body length of around two metres. They live up to their reputation as king of the animals due to their considerable size and great hunger – a fully-grown lion devours up to 40 kg of meat per meal.


Africa and Asia (India)

Savannahs, semi-deserts, bush and dry forest landscapes

Hoofed animals and big game such as zebras, antelopes, buffaloes or wild pigs

Worldwide: 23,000 to 39,000

1.70 to 2.50 m (shoulder height: 0.75 to 1.15 m)

Males approx. 225 kg, females approx. 150 kg

Brooding/gestation time:
3–4 months

Achievable age
25 years in human care, approx. 12 to 15 years in the wild

What you should know about lions

Unlike other cat species, lions lead a sociable life in prides. Usually, one to two fully grown dominant males live together with up to ten females and their offspring. While the lionesses stay faithful to the herd, dominant males are driven out by their younger rivals after two to four years. They often have to conquer a new pride.


Asian or African – the small difference

You would only encounter the Asian (Indian) lions, (Panthera leo persica) on display at Tierpark Berlin, in the wild in a smaller remaining population in the Gir reserve in western India. The smaller and lighter Asian lion differs in appearance from the African lion most strikingly through the skin fold on the belly and the shorter mane of the males, which allows for better exposure of the ears.


New bosses – new offspring

If one or more new dominant males take over a pride, they kill all the offspring fathered by the predecessor that are still dependent on their mothers, i.e. younger than 18 months old. Since the lionesses are ready to mate again within a few days after losing their offspring, the new heads of the pride can instantly produce new offspring – until they themselves are driven out over time.


Mother lions stick together

A lioness can bear up to six offspring away from the pride and initially suckles them alone. After around 6 to 8 weeks she returns back to the pride with her litter, where the 'aunts' are already waiting. All the other lion mothers lend a 'paw' in helping the new lion mother out by suckling the little ones and taking care of them so that she doesn't have to fend for herself – a true 'feline nursery'.


Optional section: Sleepy contemporaries

The mainly nocturnal lions prefer to hunt during the night and spend the majority of the day sleeping in a shady area. Yet this sluggish behaviour does in no way mean that visitors to the zoo will end up with long faces, since the later feedings of the predators will eventually reveal the imposing nature of the big cats and impress both young and old spectators alike.


Lion hunting – cleverness vs. poor shape

Lions are only able to keep up a chase by themselves for a few hundred metres due to their heavy and stocky body structure; therefore they prefer to hunt mostly in groups. Their tactic: Surrounding the victim, giving them no chance of escape and then striking. At the very moment in which the wild game notices the hunters and exposes it's most vulnerable flank in flight, it is usually already too late.


Is it true, that ...?

Shakespeare referred to the typical characteristic of a lion as far back as in 1596 with his comedy 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'. Using his notorious words 'Well roared, lion!', you can (playfully) pay tribute to someone using the boisterous remarks today. And while it is true that the roar of a lion is impressive, it can also be heard at a distance of up to eight kilometres away – and makes it clear to everyone that the master of the savannah is on the prowl.

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