Do Lions Live In The Jungle?

“In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps tonight” – most of us can sing along to this famous line. But that the wisdom provided in songs is not always to be trusted it obvious to anyone who, according to The Beatles’ credo “All you need is love” has ever tried paying for their rent or groceries in the currency of love, or has tried to fill any gaps in their CV by bragging about years of loving.

So, what about this tidbit of information about the sleeping place of lions? Do lions live in the jungle? No, they actually do not. Lions mainly live in savannahs, which are grassy plains with a few trees, and open woodlands. The openness of their habitats fits with the way they hunt their prey. 

Aside from the effects of the famous song, the reason why many people think that lions inhabit the jungle is likely a mistake in translation. The word “jungle” comes from the Hindi word “jangle” which can mean both forest and wasteland. And while we in the contemporary English definition of the word refer to the first meaning, the latter, wasteland, could have been used to describe the savannah where lions live. 

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Do Lions Have Kings? 

Another way in which pop culture has influenced our view of lions is with the idea of a king of the lions. In nature, Mufasa and Simba would be out of a job very quickly, though, since lions do not have kings. Lions live in groups called prides, which makes them singular in the family of cats, who are mostly solitary creatures. There is a small population of lions that roam the savannahs alone, but these are the exception.

A pride is a family group that can comprise up to 40 lions. Among these are three or four males and a dozen or more female lions, called lionesses. Female cubs usually stay with their pride when they grow up, whereas young males leave the family group to establish another pride, usually by taking over a pre-existing pride. Prides are matrilineal – the lions come and ago, but the females form the core of the pride.  

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In a pride, everything from raising the cubs to hunting is done communally. Lions and lionesses have different tasks in a group. Male lions mainly defend the pride’s territory by roaring and chasing off intruders. They also mark the territory with their urine.

Lionesses are the primary hunters of the pride and work in groups to bring down large animals like zebras or buffaloes and even young elephants. Sometimes, when the group is hunting a particularly large animal, the male lions, which are larger and stronger than the females, join in the hunt.

While there are fights – mostly about the largest portion of food – in a group of lions, there is no king that rules them all. This common idea is something that is mainly kept fresh in our minds by its popularity in pop culture. In that, it is very similar to the idea of the alpha wolf, which has long been disproven by the very researcher who brought it up first. Maybe we humans like to cling to the idea of all-powerful leaders among animals to justify our own behavior – or it simply makes for more exciting movies! 

Do Lions Live In The Jungle
Do Lions Live In The Jungle?

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Do Lions Have Natural Predators? 

Lions are often called apex predators, which is a – not strictly scientific – term for predators that have no natural enemies. This means that lions are usually not hunted by other animals. In some cases, other animals can nevertheless be dangerous to them.

While lions mostly hunt their prey, they are also not above occasionally feeding on carrion. In these situations, they often fight with packs of hyenas over an animal carcass. And while lions win most of the time, this does not always have to be the case. Lion cubs sometimes fall prey to pythons, crocodiles, jackals, cheetahs, and other animals. As with many predators, their biggest enemies are humans.

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Humans kill lions for various reasons, like fear for their safety, and to protect their livestock. Lions also suffer from the effects of climate change, for example, when the change in climate conditions leads to habitat loss.