South Africa Lions

South African lions will be found where there is plentiful prey, primarily their favorite Cape buffalo and larger antelope. This means they are found in almost all wildlife parks and private game reserves. The largest percent of wildlife safaris in the country will go to Kruger National Park as well as neighboring Sabi Sabi and Sabi Sands. Lions are famously plentiful here. For a completely different experience, you can go to the Kalahari Gemsbock National Park on the northwestern border with Namibia. Here, you can view lions in a desert environment.

South Africa lions (and lions throughout the continent) are of the same species. However, there are some variations, depending on the habitat. For instance, male lions living in the semi-arid desert regions of Tsavo and Samburu National Parks in Kenya have very sparse manes—more like a collar of rough hair than a full mane. This minimizes the nuisance of insects, the heat of the desert, and snags on the many thorny bushes. Crocodiles rule the rivers in Africa, but the lion is the largest and most powerful land predator. A couple of male lions can bring down a huge Cape buffalo. One lion can kill a wildebeest with a single swipe of the paw and can carry a load of twice his weight in his mouth. They are found throughout the continent, including semi-arid desert regions like the Kalahari in Botswana and Samburu in Kenya.

Many South Africa lions have sparse manes because much of the habitat where they live is full of low thorny bushes. You will find lions with big, thick manes in wide open spaces like the Serengeti in Tanzania and the Maasai Mara in Kenya. You will almost always find lions in groups, called prides, with several females and their young all ruled over by a dominant male. There are some larger prides ruled by a couple of males, but that is unusual. The ruling male only has a reign of three to five years before younger males challenge him for leadership. The older male lions who have been chased out of their pride will wander in bachelor groups of three or four until they can no longer hunt for themselves. When a new male lion takes over a pride, he will kill all the current cubs. This is his way of ensuring that future progeny will be his; females will come into estrus as soon as their cubs are killed. While male lions can and do hunt, most of the hunting is done by the females as a team. As with many animals, especially predators, lionesses have what are called "follow me" markers. In lions, these are black spots on the back of their ears, which are visible to other lions (especially her own cubs) while she is stalking prey low to the ground. Leopards have a white tip on their tail that is clearly visible to cubs trailing behind.

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