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Southern African lion

  (Redirected from Transvaal lion)

The Southern African lion (Panthera leo melanochaita) is a lion subspecies in Southern Africa.[1] In this part of Africa, lions occur in Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe, but are regionally extinct in Lesotho.[3] Lion populations in intensively managed protected areas in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe have increased since the turn of the century.[4]

Southern African lion
Die pure Kraft - Löwe im Etosha-Nationalpark.JPG
Male lion in Etosha National Park, Namibia
Lioness (Panthera leo) (12025528245).jpg
Lioness in Kruger National Park, South Africa
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Suborder: Feliformia
Family: Felidae
Genus: Panthera
Species: P. leo
Subspecies: P. l. melanochaita[1]
Trinomial name
Panthera leo melanochaita[1]
(Ch. H. Smith, 1842)


  • P. l. bleyenberghi
  • P. l. krugeri
  • P. l. vernayi

The type specimen for P. l. melanochaita was a black-maned lion from the Cape of Good Hope, known as the Cape lion. The lion population in this part of South Africa is extinct.[5] Living lion populations in other parts of Southern Africa were referred to as Transvaal lion, Kruger lion, Katanga lion and Kalahari lion.[6][7][8]

The Southern African lion has been described as the biggest lion subspecies in the African wilderness.[9][10][11]


Taxonomic historyEdit

In the 19th and 20th centuries, several lion type specimens from Southern Africa were described and proposed as subspecies:

In the 20th century, some authors supported the view of the Cape lion being a distinct subspecies.[7][13][14][15] In 1975, Vratislav Mazák hypothesized that the Cape lion evolved geographically isolated from other populations by the Great Escarpment.[5] In the early 21st century, Mazák's hypothesis about a geographically isolated evolution of the Cape lion was challenged. Genetic exchanges between populations in the Cape, Kalahari and Transvaal Province regions and farther east are considered having been possible through a corridor between the Great Escarpment and the Indian ocean.[16][17]

In 1939, the American zoologist Allen recognized the trinomina F. l. melanochaitus, F. l. bleyenberghi and F. l. krugeri as valid subspecies in Southern Africa.[13] In the 1970s, the scientific name of the Kalahari lion P. l. vernayi was considered synonymous with P. l. krugeri.[18] In 2005, the authors of Mammal Species of the World recognized P. l. melanochaita, P. l. bleyenberghi and P. l. krugeri as valid taxa.[2] In 2016, IUCN Red List assessors subsumed all African lion populations to P. l. leo.[3] In 2017, the Cat Classification Task Force of the Cat Specialist Group reduced the number of valid lion subspecies to two, namely P. l. melanochaita in Southern Africa and most parts of East Africa, and P. l. leo in India and North, West and Central Africa.[1]


Results of phylogeographic studies support the notion of lions in Southern Africa being genetically close, but distinct from populations in Western and Northern Africa and Asia.[19][20] Based on the analysis of samples from 357 lions from 10 countries, it is thought that lions migrated from Southern Africa to East Africa during the Pleistocene and Holocene eras.[19] Results of a DNA analysis using 26 lion samples from Southern and Eastern Africa indicate that genetic variation between them is low and that two major clades exist: one in southwestern Africa and one in the region from Uganda and Kenya to KwaZulu-Natal.[21]


A male with a partially black mane in Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, South Africa
White lions owe their coloring to a recessive gene[22]

The lion's fur varies in colour from light buff to dark brown. It has rounded ears and a black tail tuft. Average head-to-body length of male lions is 2.47–2.84 m (8.1–9.3 ft) with a weight of 148.2–190.9 kg (327–421 lb). Females are smaller and less heavy.[23] The Southern African lion has been described as similar in general appearance and size as lions in other African countries. Shoulder height is 0.92–1.23 m (3.0–4.0 ft). Males are around 2.6–3.2 m (8.5–10.5 ft) long including the tail. Females are 2.35–2.75 m (7.7–9.0 ft). On average, males weigh 150–250 kg (330–550 lb), while females weigh 120–182 kg (265–401 lb).[24] Male and female lions in Zimbabwe, the Kalahari and Kruger National Park reportedly average 187.5–193.3 kg (413–426 lb) and 124.2–139.8 kg (274–308 lb), respectively.[9] A few Southwest African lion specimens obtained by museums were described as having manes that vary in size, colour and development.[18]


In 1936, a man-eating lion shot by Lennox Anderson, outside Hectorspruit in Eastern Transvaal weighed about 313 kg (690 lb) and was the heaviest wild lion on record. The longest wild lion reportedly was a male shot near Mucusso in southern Angola in 1973.[10][11]

White lionEdit

The white lion is a rare morph with a genetic condition called leucism, which is caused by a double recessive allele. It has normal pigmentation in eyes and skin. White lion individuals have been occasionally encountered only in and around Kruger National Park and the adjacent Timbavati Private Game Reserve in eastern South Africa. They were removed from the wild in the 1970s, thus decreasing the white lion gene pool. Nevertheless, 17 births have been recorded in five different prides between 2007 and 2015.[22] White lions are selected for breeding in captivity.[25] Reportedly, they have been bred in camps in South Africa for use as trophies to be killed during canned hunts.[26]

Distribution and habitatEdit

The lion population in what used to be the Natal and Cape Provinces of South Africa had been locally extinct since the 1850s to late 1860s. The last lions south of the Orange River were sighted between 1850 and 1858.[5] Eventually, lions were relocated to Addo Elephant National Park.[27]

Elsewhere in Southern Africa, lions are confined to 23 unfenced and 16 fenced reserves; 10 of the fenced reserves are located in South Africa. Lion populations are also present in Namibia, Angola and northern Botswana. In the southwestern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, they are considered regionally extinct.[3][28]

The lion range in nine Southern African protected areas totals 1,540,171 km2 (594,663 sq mi), of which the following protected area complexes are considered lion strongholds:[29]

Ecology and behaviourEdit

Male lion and cub feeding on a Cape buffalo, Sabi Sand Game Reserve, South Africa

Lions prefer to hunt large ungulates including zebras, warthogs, blue wildebeest, impalas, gemsbok, Thomson's gazelles, kobs, giraffes and buffaloes. They predominately hunt prey in the range of 40.0 to 270.0 kg (88.2 to 595.2 pounds).[30]

Attacks on humansEdit

  • In February 2018, a suspected poacher was killed and eaten by lions near Kruger National Park.[31][32]
  • Towards the end of the same month, conservationist Kevin Richardson took three lions for a walk at Dinokeng Game Reserve, near Pretoria in South Africa. A lioness then pursued an impala for at least 2 km (1.2 mi), before unexpectedly killing a 22-year-old woman near her car.[33][34]


In Africa, lions are threatened by pre-emptive killing or in retaliation for preying on livestock. Prey base depletion, loss and conversion of habitat have led to a number of subpopulations becoming small and isolated. Trophy hunting has contributed to population declines in Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia.[3]


Captive lion in Philadelphia Zoo

African lion populations are included in CITES Appendix II. In several South African countries local communities generate significant revenue through wildlife tourism, which is a strong incentive for their support of conservation measures.[3]

In 2010, the small and isolated Kalahari population was estimated at 683 to 1,397 individuals in three protected areas, the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, the Kalahari Gemsbok and Gemsbok National Parks.[35] More than 2000 lions exist in the well-protected Kruger National Park.[36] In June 2015, seven lions were relocated from KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa to Akagera National Park in Rwanda.[37]

In captivityEdit

In 2006, the registry of the International Species Information System (ISIS) showed 29 lions that were derived from animals captured in Angola and Zimbabwe. In addition, about 100 captive lions were registered as P. l. krugeri by ISIS, which derived from lions captured in South Africa.[38][39]


Cultural significanceEdit

Different countries have the lion named after themselves.[40][41][42] For example, the name Zimbabwean African lion was used by the Public Library of Science in 2017 to talk about an increase in the number of lions there.[43]

Notable individualsEdit

  • Two notable victims of trophy hunters were the males Cecil and his son Xanda. They were respectively killed in 2015 and 2017, at Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park.[44][45]
  • Lobengula is a male lion that was employed as a guard animal by a game farmer in South Africa.[46][47]
  • A lone lioness that was named after Liuwa Plain National Park in Zambia,[48][49] besides a male that was meant to be her partner, that is Nakawa.[50]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c Kitchener, A. C., Breitenmoser-Würsten, C., Eizirik, E., Gentry, A., Werdelin, L., Wilting A., Yamaguchi, N., Abramov, A. V., Christiansen, P., Driscoll, C., Duckworth, J. W., Johnson, W., Luo, S.-J., Meijaard, E., O’Donoghue, P., Sanderson, J., Seymour, K., Bruford, M., Groves, C., Hoffmann, M., Nowell, K., Timmons, Z. & Tobe, S. (2017). "A revised taxonomy of the Felidae: The final report of the Cat Classification Task Force of the IUCN Cat Specialist Group" (PDF). Cat News. Special Issue 11. 
  2. ^ a b Wozencraft, W.C. (2005). "Order Carnivora". In Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M. Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 546. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Bauer, H.; Packer, C.; Funston, P. F.; Henschel, P.; Nowell, K. (2016). "Panthera leo". The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN. 2016: e.T15951A115130419. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T15951A107265605.en. Retrieved 15 January 2018. 
  4. ^ Bauer, H., Chapron, G., Nowell, K., Henschel, P., Funston, P., Hunter, L.T., Macdonald, D.W. and Packer, C. (2015). "Lion (Panthera leo) populations are declining rapidly across Africa, except in intensively managed areas". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 112 (48): 14894–14899. 
  5. ^ a b c d Mazak, V. (1975). "Notes on the Black-maned Lion of the Cape, Panthera leo melanochaita (Ch. H. Smith, 1842) and a Revised List of the Preserved Specimens". Verhandelingen Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen (64): 1–44. 
  6. ^ a b Lönnberg, E. (1914). "New and rare mammals from Congo". Revue de Zoologie Africaine (3): 273–278. 
  7. ^ a b c Roberts, A. (1929). "New forms of African mammals". Annals of the Transvaal Museum. 21 (13): 82–121. 
  8. ^ a b Roberts, A. (1948). "Descriptions of some new subspecies of mammals". Annals of the Transvaal Museum. 21 (1): 63–69. 
  9. ^ a b Smuts, G.L.; Robinson, G.A.; Whyte, I.J. (1980). "Comparative growth of wild male and female lions (Panthera leo)". Journal of Zoology. 190 (3): 365–373. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7998.1980.tb01433.x. 
  10. ^ a b Wood, G. L. (1983). The Guinness Book of Animal Facts and Feats. Sterling Pub Co Inc ISBN 978-0-85112-235-9
  11. ^ a b Brakefield, T. (1993). Big Cats: Kingdom of Might. Voyageur Press. p. 44. ISBN 978-0-89658-329-0. 
  12. ^ Smith, C.H. (1842). "Black maned lion Leo melanochaitus". In Jardine, W. The Naturalist's Library. Vol. 15 Mammalia. London: Chatto and Windus. p. Plate X, 177. 
  13. ^ a b Allen, G. M. (1939). A Checklist of African Mammals. Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard College 83: 1–763.
  14. ^ Lundholm, B. (1952). "A skull of a Cape lioness (Felis leo melanochaitus H. Smith". Annals of the Transvaal Museum (32): 21–24. 
  15. ^ Stevenson-Hamilton, J. (1954). "Specimen of the extinct Cape lion". African Wildlife (8): 187–189. 
  16. ^ Yamaguchi, N. (2000). "The Barbary lion and the Cape lion: their phylogenetic places and conservation" (PDF). African Lion Working Group News. 1: 9–11. 
  17. ^ Barnett, R.; Yamaguchi, N.; Barnes, I.; Cooper, A. (2006). "Lost populations and preserving genetic diversity in the lion Panthera leo: Implications for its ex situ conservation" (PDF). Conservation Genetics. 7 (4): 507–514. doi:10.1007/s10592-005-9062-0. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2006-08-24. 
  18. ^ a b Hemmer, H. (1974). "Untersuchungen zur Stammesgeschichte der Pantherkatzen (Pantherinae) Teil 3. Zur Artgeschichte des Löwen Panthera (Panthera) leo (Linnaeus, 1758)". Veröffentlichungen der Zoologischen Staatssammlung. 17: 167–280. 
  19. ^ a b Antunes, A.; Troyer, J. L.; Roelke, M. E.; Pecon-Slattery, J.; Packer, C.; Winterbach, C.; Winterbach, H.; Johnson, W. E. (2008). "The Evolutionary Dynamics of the Lion Panthera leo Revealed by Host and Viral Population Genomics". PLoS Genetics. 4 (11): e1000251. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1000251. PMC 2572142 . PMID 18989457. 
  20. ^ Bertola, L. D.; Van Hooft, W. F.; Vrieling, K.; Uit De Weerd, D. R.; York, D. S.; Bauer, H.; Prins, H. H. T.; Funston, P. J.; Udo De Haes, H. A.; Leirs, H.; Van Haeringen, W. A.; Sogbohossou, E.; Tumenta, P. N.; De Iongh, H. H. (2011). "Genetic diversity, evolutionary history and implications for conservation of the lion (Panthera leo) in West and Central Africa". Journal of Biogeography. 38 (7): 1356–1367. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2699.2011.02500.x. 
  21. ^ Dubach, J.; Patterson, B.D.; Briggs, M.B.; Venzke, K.; Flamand, J.; Stander, P.; Scheepers, L.; Kays, R.W. (2005). "Molecular genetic variation across the southern and eastern geographic ranges of the African lion, Panthera leo". Conservation Genetics. 6 (1): 15–24. doi:10.1007/s10592-004-7729-6. 
  22. ^ a b Turner, J. A., Vasicek, C. A. and Somers, M. J. (2015). "Effects of a colour variant on hunting ability: the white lion in South Africa". Open Science Repository Biology: e45011830. 
  23. ^ Guggisberg, C. A. W. (1975). "Lion Panthera leo (Linnaeus, 1758)". Wild Cats of the World. New York: Taplinger Publishing. pp. 138–179. ISBN 0-8008-8324-1. 
  24. ^ Haas, S.K.; Hayssen, V.; Krausman, P.R. (2005). "Panthera leo" (PDF). Mammalian Species. 762: 1–11. doi:10.1644/1545-1410(2005)762[0001:PL]2.0.CO;2. 
  25. ^ McBride, C. (1977). The White Lions of Timbavati. Johannesburg: E. Stanton. ISBN 0-949997-32-3. 
  26. ^ Tucker, L. (2003). Mystery of the White Lions—Children of the Sun God. Mapumulanga: Npenvu Press. ISBN 0-620-31409-5. 
  27. ^ "Addo Elephant National Park". South African National Parks. Retrieved 2009-04-24. 
  28. ^ Nowell, K.; Jackson, P. (1996). "Panthera leo". Wild Cats: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan (PDF). Gland, Switzerland: IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group. pp. 17–21. ISBN 2-8317-0045-0. 
  29. ^ Riggio, J., Jacobson, A., Dollar, L., Bauer, H., Becker, M., Dickman, A., Funston, P., Groom, R., Henschel, P., de Iongh, H. and Lichtenfeld, L. (2013). "The size of savannah Africa: a lion's (Panthera leo) view". Biodiversity and Conservation. 22 (1): 17–35. doi:10.1007/s10531-012-0381-4. 
  30. ^ Hayward, M.W. and Kerley, G.I. (2005). Prey preferences of the lion (Panthera leo). Journal of Zoology 267 (3): 309–322.
  31. ^ "South African lions eat 'poacher', leaving just his head". The BBC. 2018-02-14. Retrieved 2018-02-25. 
  32. ^ Haden, A. (2018-02-12). "Suspected poacher mauled to death by lions close to Kruger National Park". The South African. Retrieved 2018-02-25. 
  33. ^ Torchia, C. (2018-02-28). "Lion kills woman at refuge of South African 'lion whisperer'". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2018-02-28. 
  34. ^ Feingold, S. (2018-03-02). "Lion mauls woman to death at popular South African wildlife sanctuary". CNN. Retrieved 2018-03-02. 
  35. ^ Ferreira, S. M.; Govender, D.; Herbst, M. (2013). "Conservation implications of Kalahari lion population dynamics". African Journal of Ecology. 51 (2): 176–179. 
  36. ^ The Kruger Nationalpark Map. Honeyguide Publications CC. South Africa 2004.
  37. ^ Smith, D. (2015). "Lions to be reintroduced to Rwanda after 15-year absence following genocide". The Guardian. 
  38. ^ Barnett, R.; Yamaguchi, N.; Barnes, I. & Cooper, A. (2006). "The origin, current diversity and future conservation of the modern lion (Panthera leo)". Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 273 (1598): 2119–25. doi:10.1098/rspb.2006.3555. PMC 1635511 . PMID 16901830. 
  39. ^ Neumann, O. (1900). Die von mir in den Jahren 1892–95 in Ost- und Central-Afrika, speciell in den Massai-Ländern und den Ländern am Victoria Nyansa gesammelten und beobachteten Säugethiere. Zoologische Jahrbücher. Abtheilung für Systematik, Geographie und Biologie der Thiere 13 (VI): 529–562.
  40. ^ "Angola Lion". Attica Park. 2018. Retrieved 2018-02-14. 
  41. ^ "Desert Lion Conservation". Desert Lion. 2006. Retrieved 2018-02-14. 
  42. ^ Malcolm, A. (2017-11-14). "A Zambian Lion Stirs". Smithsonian. Retrieved 2018-02-14. 
  43. ^ "Recovering population of Zimbabwean African lions show low genetic diversity". Public Library of Science. 2018-02-07. Retrieved 2018-02-14. 
  44. ^ "Zimbabwe's 'iconic' lion Cecil killed by hunter". BBC News. 27 July 2015. Archived from the original on 28 July 2015. Retrieved 3 August 2015. 
  45. ^ "Xanda, son of Cecil the lion, killed by hunter in Zimbabwe". BBC News. 20 July 2017. Retrieved 20 July 2017. 
  46. ^ "The game farmer and the lion protecting his home from robbers". The Daily Telegraph. June 17, 2017. Retrieved 28 January 2018. 
  47. ^ "WATCH 'n boer maak 'n plan: Farmer swaps guard dog for a guard lion!". Biznews. June 15, 2017. Retrieved 28 January 2018. 
  48. ^ "Remembering Lady Liuwa". African Parks. 2017-08-10. Retrieved 2017-08-11. 
  49. ^ "Zambian carnivore programme: The Greater Liuwa Ecosystem". Retrieved 2014-03-24. 
  50. ^ Platt, J. R. (2014-09-25). "Zambia's Lion King Is Dead". Retrieved 2017-03-01. 

External linksEdit

  Media related to Panthera leo bleyenberghi at Wikimedia Commons   Media related to Panthera leo krugeri at Wikimedia Commons