Question: Where do Lions live?
The majority of our feline friends reside in Africa except for a small population existing in western India.
Once upon a time the African lion blissfully roamed most of the African continent as well as parts of Asia and Europe, particularly southern Europe. Unfortunately, now, the African lion exists only in Africa, particularly sub-Saharan Africa while the Asiatic lion lives in a small population in Gir National Park, southern India.
Let’s learn more about Lions and where they live
Currently, only two subspecies of lion (Panthera leo) are globally recognised to exist in the wild. These include:
- African lion (Panthera leo leo)
- Asiatic lion (Panthera leo persica)
While the African lion is free to roam across sub-Saharan Africa, the Asiatic lion is confined in the protected park area of the Gir Forest National Park and Sanctuary.
Why? Well, before we get into that, let’s first learn about the African lion’s habitat.
Habitat of the African Lion
African lions were once known to roam vast areas of the African continent, parts of Asia and even areas of Europe. Since then, however, the population has dwindled which has seen lions disappear from 94 per cent of their habitat. Nowadays, you will only find the African lion in parts of sub-Saharan Africa with three out of five of the largest populations found in Tanzania. And according to WWF, in recent decades African lions have disappeared from 12 sub-Saharan countries.
A common misconception is that lions actually live inside dens. In fact, only the lioness seeks shelter in a den (or a sheltered, secure area) and that is only when they prepare to give birth. Lionesses move away from their pride and take refuge in a den to not only give birth but also to protect their young from potential predators, as well as male lions. Usually, after six weeks mother and her young will venture back to their tribe.
In fact, the majority of lions prefer to stick to grasslands, savanna, scrub and woodland where there is plenty of cover and water in close proximity. Lions adapt to the savanna habitat through camouflage and stealth. This is due to their sandy-colored fur that blends in with the tall grass further helping their invisibility to prey. Lions have also developed a communication system that allows them to be heard by others in their pride despite their invisibility within the tall grass.
Habitat of the Asiatic Lion
While the majority of lions live in sub-Saharan African, the Asiatic lion actually lives in India. The Gir Forest in Gujarat is home to around 600 Asiatic lions under private protection with the Wildlife Sanctuary (Western Gujarat) and the forest of Gir National park the lions’ only habitat outside of Africa. The park is dry and deciduous providing the perfect habitat.
Asiatic lions once were thought to have roamed from the Mediterranean all the way to India, covering a substantial portion of Southwest Asia but were unfortunately poached to near extinction by hunters for sporting purposes. Eventually, the Asiatic Lion Reintroduction Project was formed to provide safeguards to the Asiatic lion from extinction. This has proved a significant success with the latest figures reporting Asiatic lion numbers increased from 523 in 2015 to 674 in 2020.
Unfortunately, however, there are still high mortality rates with some suggesting fighting and canine distemper virus (CDV) are behind the deaths, in addition to potential poaching, and having to live among a human population and consequently, cattle and crops. Other elements may also serve to destroy the Asiatic lion’s habitat including forest fires caused by illegal cutting and stealing of wood within the park. This would lead to catastrophic events that have the potential to wipe out the entire lion population.
In order to help these wonderful lions’, it is imperative that those entering the park adhere to strict instruction and understand the severity of their actions could wipe out an entire sub-species.
Did you know?
According to the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle and historian Herodotus, lions existed in Greece from around 480 BCE before becoming extinct in 100 BCE. The lion featured heavily in Greek mythology and was considered a symbol of power and strength.
Frequently Asked Questions
People who ask, ‘Where do Lions live?’ also ask;
Where do lions live in Africa?
You will find the African lion roaming parts of sub-Saharan Africa with three out of five of the largest populations found in Tanzania.
Do lions live in the jungle?
No. Despite being called ‘King of the Jungle’ lions don’t actually live in the jungle, although they definitely are ‘King of the Savannah’.
Do lions live in dens?
No. A common misconception is that lions live in dens. In fact, only the lioness seeks shelter in a den and that is only when they are about to give birth. Lionesses move away from their pride and take refuge in a den to not only give birth but also to protect their young. Usually, after six weeks they will venture back to their tribe.
Do lions live in grasslands?
Yes, they most certainly do. In fact, the majority of lions prefer to stick to grasslands where there is plenty of cover and water in close proximity.
Do lions live together?
Absolutely. Lions live in groups which we call a ‘pride’. A pride can occupy anywhere from two to 40 lions, including three to four males, a handful or so of females and their offspring. In fact, lions are the only species of cat to live and socialise in groups.