January-Picture: Lion

January-Picture: Lion

On safaris lions belong to the animals everybody wants to see. In Kenya this happened pretty reliably, in the wildlife sanctuaries Solio Ranch and Ol Pejeta, as well as in the Masai Mara where this picture was taken.

 

As in zoological gardens, the chance to see lions in action is rather small as lions sleep about 20 hours per day, regardless if they are kept in captivity or live in the wild. However, this does not mean that you can detect these carnivores easily as the grass is pretty high and there are many bushes in Kenya – many places to hide. This experienced lion lay alone close to a bush. The probability to find further lions nearby is high since lions are the only cats to live in a pack and not solitary. A male who loses his family to a younger rival usually dies shortly after as consequence of the fight, or based on the fact that he alone has problems to catch pray since his lionesses have been hunting for him previously. For this reason a male lion barely reaches an age of ten years in the wild, while a male zoo lion can reach twice this age.

 

In this scenario no other lions were to be seen for a long time until suddenly there was movement in the high grass on the other side of the car. Two lionesses lay there well hidden with cubs. The male cat obviously was not disturbed by the car that separated him from his pack. Quite in contrast, he turned around and rubbed his back on the around – in this moment the lion king rather seemed to be a playful kitten.

 

Not fully clear is the status of the lion. Formerly he would have been determined as panthera leo nubica – the Nubian or East African lion. Latest DNA analyses only split lions into two species: panthera leo leo and panthera leo melanochaita. Latter species is home in southern and eastern Africa and thus also would be the species living in Kenya. The subspecies leo exists in central and West Africa plus the Asian version in India. It remains to be seen whether or not this is the final taxonomy. Safe is that the white lions as shown in some zoos are no own species but only an intended color variation.

Olaf Goldbecker