The Transvaal lion is a subspecies of the African lion. It has a large social structure and is widely known for its mane. Their name was given after the Transvaal region of South Africa. They have different regional names, such as Eastern-Southern African lion, Kalahari lion, Katanga lion, Masai lion, Serengeti lion, Southeast African lion, Southern lion, Tsavo lion, Uganda lion, and Southwest African lion.
Weight:Females: 260-400 lbs (117-181 kg); Males: 330-550 lbs (149-249 kg)
Body and Coloration: The coloration of their fur ranges from light buff to dark brown. They have big heads with round ears, long bodies with short legs, and a black tail tuft. Only the males possess the iconic manes that develop with age. When they are young, their mane is usually yellow and turns darker and more extensive as they grow older.
The distribution of these lions ranges across Southern Africa. They inhabit Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Somalia, South Africa, and Tanzania. This subspecies is also under protection at the Kruger National Park area and Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park.
They mainly live in desert areas, the savannah, semi-arid grasslands, shrublands, and occasionally tropical woodlands.
The primary preys of these lions are herbivorous mammals like Cape buffaloes, gemsbok, South African giraffes, warthogs, wildebeests, and zebras. Sometimes they also eat porcupines and small reptiles.
This species of the lion is mostly crepuscular and spends about twenty hours a day sleeping.
They form pride consisting of 6-15 male and female adults and cubs.
Males and females have individual duties. The females usually lead the pride and hunt for food, while the males protect them by defending the pride.
When threatened, to show aggressiveness, these lions use tactile communication.
The males sometimes fight each other to determine the leader. Many male lions die due to these fights, but the one who wins becomes the pride leader.
These lions are known to live up to 15 years in the wild; however, in captivity, their lifespan may extend up to 30 years.
Out of any primary carnivores, Transvaal lions possess the biggest eyes, which make it easier to spot their prey from miles away in vast areas.
Their strong and muscular legs help them run very fast. They even use their front legs to grab and knock down their prey.
Their tongue’s rough texture helps them peel off the skin from their prey’s bone.
They have powerful jaws, making feeding on larger prey like zebras easier.
Transvaal lions can jump very high, a skill they use to sneak up on their prey.
These lions can mate at any time of the year. Each female gives birth to up to five cubs after 110-119 days of gestation. The cubs weigh about 5 lbs at birth and cannot open their eyes until three weeks old. The mothers care for each others’ newborns and nurse them until they are eight months old. During this time, the females take all the cubs to teach them hunting.
Females and males reach their reproductive maturity at two and three years old, respectively; at the age of two, the cubs leave the pride to start their own.
Being apex predators themselves, they face very few threats. However, sickly and weak lions as well as cubs can become the prey of cheetahs, hyenas, and wild dogs.
In CITES Appendix II, African lions are included. Only in protected areas has their population been stable. In cooperation, the regional offices of IUCN and other organizations for wildlife conservation developed a Lion Conservation Strategy for Eastern and Southern African lions.
In 2006 the International Species Information System registered several captive African lions under different names; 8 lions as P. l. massaicus and 23 lions as P. l. nubicus and 100 lions were registered under the name of P. l. krugeri.
The rare white lion is a variation of the Transvaal lion originating from a recessive genetic color mutation, the same one that causes albinism. However, white lions are not albinos since their eyes have the color of their regular counterparts.
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