Lion (Panthera leo)

Lions have a tawny coat, creamy underbellies and tufted tails. Males have manes and are powerfully. They have five digits on the front feet and four digits on the back feet, with sharp claws that are fully retractable. Lions are the largest carnivore in Namibia. Adult male lions weigh between 160 -240 kg and adult females 100 to170 kg.


The tracks of male lions, presented here, are larger than those of females. The front foot is much wider than the back foot. Average measurements (mm) for males are presented (width x height).

Front foot - 129 x 138mm
Back foot - 118x 137mm

The lion is the only truly social member of the cat family, living in prides numbering from 4 -30 animals. The pride sizes and home ranges depend on the availability of food. When prey is abundant prides tend to be larger and home ranges smaller. Up to four adult males live with a pride. Sub-adult males disperse from their natal pride to become nomadic or form small coalitions. Lions are most active at night when most of the kills are made. During the day they rest in the shade. After a gestation period of 104 - 110 days, litters of 1-6 cubs are born in a secluded spot such as thickets or long grass. The cubs are hidden at first and join the pride after 3-6 weeks. Lactating lionesses will allow other cubs in the pride to suckle. Mortality of lion cubs is high at 80% and is mostly due to starvation. Independence is reached at 3 to 4 years old. Male lions can live for 10 to 12 years and females from 12 to 16 years. Mortality of adults is mostly human related through poisoning, trapping and shooting. Starvation resulting from injury is another factor. Oestrus is often synchronised resulting in synchronised births. Females share the raising of the cubs, resulting in improved cub survival during synchronised births.

In Namibia lions are restricted to Etosha National Park, Kaudom Game Reserve, parts of the Tsumkwe Districts, the Kunene Region, and the Caprivi Region.

Lions feed on a wide range of animals. Their principle prey depend on what is available, falling generally within a range of species that weigh between 50 and 300 kg. In most African conservation areas lions feed predominantly on wildebeest, zebra and buffalo. In the Kaudom Game Reserve and Tsumkwe District lions take mainly kudu, gemsbok, giraffe and wildebeest. In contrast, Etosha lions prey mostly on springbok and smaller animals (73% of all kills).

Man is the lion’s only significant enemy. Lions that raid domestic livestock in communal and commercial farmland areas are often shot, poisoned or caught in gin traps.

Multimedia (Download QuickTime to view video clips)

Male lions near Hobatere Lodge in 2007

Pride male with 3 cubs near Hobatere Lodge in 2007

Sound file 00'16 / 964Kb 00'14 / 896Kb

Roar of an adult male and female (in distance), recorded in the Barab River on 12 May 2006.

lion_roar.mp3 (00'16 / 128Kb)