A lion is a large, powerful carnivore and was once common in Asia and parts of Europe as well as in Africa. This impressive member of the big cat family is now a protected species.

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Breeding

Lions begin to breed at two years but reach their prime at five years. Mating take place at most times of the year and a male may mate with several females. A lioness has cubs about every two years and gestation is 105 - 112 days. Shortly before birth, she chooses a suitable place for her lair, which ideally should be out of sight from predators, sheltered and close to water.

The number of cubs in a litter is 2 - 5, born blind and with a spotted coat. Their eyes open at 6 days and for the first two months they are dependent on their mother's milk. At six weeks, the cubs begin to accompany their mother to the kill and she teaches them how to hunt. A cub cannot tear meat until it gets permanent teeth at one year, so it continues to rely on its mother for food. By 15 months a cub can kill small prey.

When the cubs reach two years, their mother is usually pregnant again and they have to leave her. Some females may be allowed to stay in the pride, but all the male cubs are driven out by the dominant male. Less than half the young lions will survive their first two or three weeks alone.

Male lions take no interest in the rearing of the young and may sometimes even try to kill them.

Read More: Territory

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