Lions are not Kings of the Jungle

Lions are not Kings of the Jungle

They could be - if they lived there

Calling a lion King of the Jungle is just wrong. These big cats don’t live in the jungle, they inhabit the open savannahs. That’s why their fur is a wheaty-yellow - to blend in with the tall waving grasses. They are regal without a doubt as they roam, play, hunt and gather in prides. As a “Leo,” they take their place in horoscopes while their Swahili name - Simba - explains why they are popular characters in movies.

While other big cats rarely travel in groups, lions tend to congregate in prides. They do inhabit other areas such as woodlands, but you won’t find them near a jungle. Top males are brutal as leaders. Once they take charge, they kill off all the male cubs that are not theirs, then mate with the females to add their own progeny to the family. They’re the only cats with thick furry manes, which protect their necks during fights with other males.

We can still call them the “King of Beasts,” but they are also dwindling in rapid numbers. In 1955, researchers believed there were about 400,000 in existence. Today, there may be as few as 20,000. A smaller, almost insignificant population exists in India. Habitat encroachment is the standard reason for diminishing numbers, but they are also considered trophies.

The road to conservation is tedious. First, locals must create lion-proof “bomas” for their livestock. Second, they must realize that this great feline is a tourist attraction rather than a nuisance. On the IUCN Red List, lions have reached “vulnerable” status while Cites lists them as “protected.”

Photo by William H. Majoros, courtesy Wikipedia CC license