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The Transvaal lion (Panthera leo melanochaita) is a lion population in South Africa. Named after the Transvaal region, it was once considered a distinct subspecies, with the taxomic name Panthera leo krugeri.[1][2] In 2017, lion populations in Southern Africa were subsumed to Panthera leo melanochaita.[3]

Transvaal lion
Lion pose (6649531395).jpg
Transvaal lion at Eastern Cape, South Africa.
Lioness (Panthera leo) (12025528245).jpg
Transvaal lioness at 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
Trinomial name
Panthera leo melanochaita
(Ch. H. Smith, 1842)


Evolutionary historyEdit

A phylogeographic analysis based on mtDNA sequences of lions from across their entire range indicates that Sub-Saharan African lions are phylogenetically basal to all modern lions. This suggests an African origin of the evolution of modern lions, with a probable center in EasternSouthern Africa, from where lions migrated to West Africa, eastern North Africa and Asia.[4] Modern lions are related to prehistoric cave lions, such as the Upper Pleistocene European cave lion.[5][6][7]

Results of phylogeographic studies indicate that East African lion populations are genetically close to populations in Southern Africa.[8][9] However, this does not mean that they are genetically homogeneous. For example, despite being in Southern Africa, lions in the Transvaal Province are more closely related to East Africa lions in Tsavo than to Southwest African lions in Etosha National Park, Namibia.[10]


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).[2] A few Southwest African lion specimens obtained by museums were described as having manes that vary in size, colour and development.[11]

Southern African lions appear to be the largest lions in Africa.[2][12] 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.[13] Male and female lions in Zimbabwe, the Kalahari and Kruger Park 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.[12]

White lionEdit

White lions owe their coloring to a recessive gene; they are rare forms of the subspecies Panthera leo melanochaita.

White lions are actually 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 worldwide.[citation needed]

Habitat and distributionEdit

Transvaal lions live in the savannah, grasslands and semi-arid regions. The Transvaal lion is the southernmost African lion, ranging from southern Namibia to southeastern Mozambique.[2]

Ecology and behaviorEdit

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 251.0 kg (88.2 to 553.4 lb).[14]

Conservation statusEdit

Captive Transvaal lion in Philadelphia Zoo.

There are more than 2000 lions of this subspecies in the well-protected Kruger National Park.[15] In addition about 100 lions are registered under the name P. l. krugeri by the International Species Information System. These animals are derived from animals captured in South Africa.[4][16]

Introduction projectsEdit

In June 2015, the African Parks Network relocated lions from Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa, to Akagera National Park in Rwanda.[17]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ 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. 
  2. ^ a b c d 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. 
  3. ^ 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: 76. 
  4. ^ a b 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. 273 (1598): 2119–2125. PMC 1635511 . PMID 16901830. doi:10.1098/rspb.2006.3555. 
  5. ^ Barnett, Ross; Mendoza, Marie Lisandra Zepeda; Soares, André Elias Rodrigues; Ho, Simon Y W; Zazula, Grant; Yamaguchi, Nobuyuki; Shapiro, Beth; Kirillova, Irina V; Larson, Greger; Gilbert, M Thomas P. "Mitogenomics of the Extinct Cave Lion, Panthera spelaea (Goldfuss, 1810), Resolve its Position within the Panthera Cats". Retrieved 2016-11-03. 
  6. ^ Kurtén, B. (1968). Pleistocene Mammals of Europe. Transaction Publishers, 2007. p. 317. ISBN 0202309533. 
  7. ^ Burger, J., Rosendahl, F., Loreille, O., Hemmer, H., Eriksson, T., Götherström, A., Hiller, J., Collins, M. J., Wess, T., Alt, K. W. (2004). "Molecular phylogeny of the extinct cave lion Panthera leo spelaea". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 30 (3): 841–849. PMID 15012963. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2003.07.020. 
  8. ^ 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. PMC 2572142 . PMID 18989457. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1000251. 
  9. ^ 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. 
  10. ^ 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. 
  11. ^ 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. 
  12. ^ 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. 
  13. ^ Wood, G. L. (1983). The Guinness Book of Animal Facts and Feats. Sterling Pub Co Inc ISBN 978-0-85112-235-9
  14. ^ Hayward, M.W. and Kerley, G.I. (2005). Prey preferences of the lion (Panthera leo). Journal of Zoology 267(3): 309–322.
  15. ^ The Kruger Nationalpark Map. Honeyguide Publications CC. South Africa 2004.
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ Smith, D. (2015-05-28). "Lions to be reintroduced to Rwanda after 15-year absence following genocide". 

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