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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)

formerly P. l. bleyenberghi, P. l. krugeri, P. l. vernayi[2]

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] In the 20th century, living lion populations in other parts of Southern Africa were referred to as Katanga lion, Transvaal lion and Kalahari lion.[6][7][8]


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][10][11][12] 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 regions and farther east are considered having been possible through a corridor between the Great Escarpment and the Indian ocean.[13][14]

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.[10] In the 1970s, the scientific name of the Kalahari lion P. l. vernayi was considered synonymous with P. l. krugeri.[15] 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 most parts of Southern and 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 West and Northern Africa and Asia.[16][17] Based on the analysis of samples from 357 lions from 10 countries, it is thought that lions migrated from Southern to Eastern Africa during the Pleistocene and Holocene eras.[16] 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.[18]


Lions in South Africa are similar in general appearance and size to lions in other African countries. 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). Generally, males weigh 150–250 kg (330–550 lb), while the females weigh 110–182 kg (243–401 lb). They have a shoulder height of 0.92–1.23 m (3.0–4.0 ft).[19] A few Southwest African lion specimens obtained by museums were described as having manes that vary in size, colour and development.[15]

Southern African lions appear to be the largest lions in Africa.[19][20] 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, southern Angola, in October 1973.[21] Male and female lions in Zimbabwe, the Kalahari and Kruger National Park in South Africa reportedly average around 189.6 kg (418 lb) and 126.9 kg (280 lb), respectively. These measurements are greater than those of the average weights of East African lions.[20]

White lionEdit

White lions owe their coloring to a recessive gene.[22]

White lions are a color mutation of the Transvaal lion. Leucism occurs only in this type of lion, but is quite rare. They are found in a few wildlife reserves and mostly in zoos.[22]

Distribution and habitatEdit

The lion population in South Africa's Cape Province and Natal is locally extinct since the 1850s to late 1860s. The last lions south of the Orange River were sighted between 1850 and 1858.[5]

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][23]

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:[24]

Ecology and behaviourEdit

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).[25]


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]


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.[26] More than 2000 lions exist in the well-protected Kruger National Park.[27] In June 2015, the African Parks Network relocated lions from Kwa-Zulu Natal in South Africa to Akagera National Park in Rwanda.[28]

In captivityEdit

Captive lion in Philadelphia Zoo

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.[29][30]


Cultural significanceEdit

One of the possible origins of the name of Bloemfontein is that it was named by a pioneer farmer, that is Rudolphus Martinus Brits, after an ox of his that got killed by a lion in the 19th century.[31]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c Kitchener, A.C., Breitenmoser-Würsten, C., Eizirik, E., Gentry, A., Werdelin, L., Wilting, A. and Yamaguchi, N. (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". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2017-2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. 
  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. ^ 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. 
  10. ^ a b Allen, G. M. (1939). A Checklist of African Mammals. Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard College 83: 1–763.
  11. ^ Lundholm, B. (1952). "A skull of a Cape lioness (Felis leo melanochaitus H. Smith". Annals of the Transvaal Museum (32): 21–24. 
  12. ^ Stevenson-Hamilton, J. (1954). "Specimen of the extinct Cape lion". African Wildlife (8): 187–189. 
  13. ^ Yamaguchi, N. (2000). "The Barbary lion and the Cape lion: their phylogenetic places and conservation" (PDF). African Lion Working Group News 1: 9–11. 
  14. ^ 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. 
  15. ^ 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. 
  16. ^ 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. 
  17. ^ 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. 
  18. ^ 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. 
  19. ^ a b 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. 
  20. ^ 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. 
  21. ^ Wood, G. L. (1983). The Guinness Book of Animal Facts and Feats. Sterling Pub Co Inc ISBN 978-0-85112-235-9
  22. ^ a b Yun Sung Cho et al. (2013). "The tiger genome and comparative analysis with lion and snow leopard genomes". Nature Communications 4: 2433. doi:10.1038/ncomms3433
  23. ^ 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. 
  24. ^ 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. 
  25. ^ Hayward, M.W. and Kerley, G.I. (2005). Prey preferences of the lion (Panthera leo). Journal of Zoology 267 (3): 309–322.
  26. ^ Ferreira, S. M.; Govender, D.; Herbst, M. (2013). "Conservation implications of Kalahari lion population dynamics". African Journal of Ecology 51 (2): 176–179. 
  27. ^ The Kruger Nationalpark Map. Honeyguide Publications CC. South Africa 2004.
  28. ^ Smith, D. (2015). "Lions to be reintroduced to Rwanda after 15-year absence following genocide". The Guardian. 
  29. ^ 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. 
  30. ^ 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.
  31. ^ Bridget Hilton-Barber (2001). Weekends with Legends. New Africa Books. p. 98. ISBN 0-86486-471-X. 

External linksEdit

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