(African, Timbavati & Asiatic Lions, Canine Distemper)

The African Lion

Panthera Leo

Second to tigers in size, african lions average between 270 pounds for the females, and 500 pounds for males. Their body is tan in color, with a variety of manes from gold to black. They have a black paint brush like tip on the end of their tails. Males range in height of up to 4 feet, while females are roughly 1/2 foot shorter.

They are the only social cat with related females forming prides. A pride can range from 3 to 30 animals, which includes cubs, males and females. Each pride selects it's own territory. The males guard it by roaring at night, scent marking trees, while the females do most of the hunting for the pride.

The female african lions live their lives out with the pride, while males only last for about 2 years. They are either killed off or kicked out of the pride by other dominant males that decide to take over.

Their life expectancy in the wild averages from 15 to 18 years, and in captivity from 25 to 30 years. They live longer in captivity due to the fact they do not have to hunt or fight, and they are protected from any other unforseen dangers.

Males within their pride have a social bond with each other, and will protect their pride together.

In the wild a lioness is in season for only 4 days out of each year. They mate 3 times an hour during this time. Gestation for the female lioness is about 14 to 15 weeks, (105 to 110) days. The lioness will give birth in a den, usually out of rock or a dense thicket. At around 1 1/2 months the mother introduces her cubs to the pride. They then are reared by the pride. Weaned at about 8 months of age, they will continue to depend on their mother until they are at least 16 months old.

Their main source of food ranges from buffalo to rabbits. Hunting in groups of two or more, they catch their prey approximately 30% of the time. Having such a rough textured tongue enables them to tear away the meat from the carcass by licking it off.

You can identify a particular lion by recording the spots on it's nose on their muzzles. They have 4 or 5 parallel rows of vibrissae, (whisker spots), on both sides of their muzzles. The spots above the topmost row is referred to as the "reference row" for identification. These spots vary on each lion.

In captivity lions can be very affectionate and will bond with it's owner(s). They rarely become aggressive, unless a lioness is in season, or food is present. Lions behave much like a dog does, attempting to please his master.

The Timbavati Lion

The Philadelphia zoo was the first zoo in North America to exhibit and breed these lions.

The white lions of Timbavati Game Preserve in South Africa are extinct in the wild. The Cincinnati Zoo, Siegfried and Roy's compound in Las Vegas, 4 in S. Africa, 2 in Germany and 4 in other zoos are in existance.

The Timbavati Lions are the only white lions in existance. Roy Horn of Siegfried and Roy, presented the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden with a rare, 7 month old female white lion of Timbavati in 1998.

They named her "Prosperity", and will join her with "Sunshine and Future", 10 month old white male lions also from Siegfried and Roy.

Their hopes for offspring are aimed at mid-1999. This pride of Timbavati lions has been named, "Pride of the Millennium".

White lions are extinct in the wild, and there are only 25 in existance in captivity.

Thanks to an alliance with the Johannesburg Zoological Gardens, Siegrfried and Roy were given 7 white lions to continue this unique line of species in their breeding program.

Legend has it that the white lions once every year would emerge from the bush, and show their pure white coats, which represents the good in all creatures.

The white lion is not an albino, it carrys the recessive white gene.

The Asiatic Lion

Our special thanks to Nigel Hodgetts, with the "Asiatic Lion Information Center", for allowing the use of the asiatic lionhead photo, and enabling us to put together this informative report.

Asiatic lions are seriously endangered. The Indian lion is another name for this lion, a sub-species that once lived from Greece to central India.

Called the "Lord of the Beasts", they became a symbol for human power. Slightly smaller than their cousins, (the african lion), they do not have as full of a mane, however, they do have thicker elbow tufts and a longer tail tuft. They are also identified by a unique fold of skin along the underneath of their bellys.

The asiatic lion nearly died out from a serious drought in the Gir Forest area in Gujarat. Lions were forced to hunt for prey by killing humans. There was mass destruction by man to stop these killings, almost wiping out this sub-species. In 1910 there were very few asiatic lions left, (approximately 100).

The Nawab Junagrdh, who was a local monarch, placed these lions under protection from further destruction. Banning all lion hunting, soon benefited this lion. The population began to increase, as they continue to thrive in captive breeding programs in zoos today.

The Gir National Park and Lion Sanctuary in Gujarat, Western India is the only place to view these beautiful creatures. The park with the Indian government are giving guided jeep tours for tourists. The Zurich zoo, Paignton Zoo, Chester Zoo, Dudley Zoo, and others are involved in breeding programs, and are proud to announce new litters being born this year (1998).

It is thought that there are approximately 240 asiatic lions in existance.

There will also be a lion safari park east of the Taj Mahal. They will provide a natural habitat for the lions, with ample shelter and resources. Eight lions in the Kampur and Lucknow zoos will be released in this area. The Gujarat government will also donate lions to this effort.

With the efforts of everyone involved, the survival of the asiatic lion looks promising.

Project Life Lion

The Serengeti lions in Tanzania have been afflicted with the more commonly known disease "canine distemper". About 3,000 lions have died from this disease. Natives bring in domesticated dogs that have not been vaccinated. These dogs then transfer distemper to hyenas and jackals, who in turn transfer it to the lions.

A pilot vaccination program called "Project Life Lion" was launched in 1995 by the Institute of Zoology, London and the University of Minnesota. Their goal was to vaccinate the village peoples canines from distemper and rabies. They believe this will eliminate this potentially deadly problem.

Project Life Lion is run with the co-operation of the Tanzanian Wildlife Parks, Tanzanian Wildlife Services, Ngorogoro Conservation Area Authority and the Kenya Wildlife Service. The area tribespeople are also involved in this huge effort.

In September 1996, another intensive three year program was funded by the "WSPA". Their goal was to vaccinate 20,000+ dogs in that region against distemper and rabies.

Thanks to everyones great efforts, this disease should be stopped from further devastation. However, the long term effect on the Tanzanian lions is unknown.

Meanwhile, the Serengeti lions may hold the key to a devastating human disease. Scientists want to find out why lions infected with "FIV" do not develop active disease. This discovery could help the battle with AIDS. "FIV", "feline immunodeficiency", is a condition related to the AIDS virus HIV in humans.