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Lion habitat

From savannah to desert

Lions can live almost anywhere, having been recorded in open grasslands, woodlands, thick bush, and thick, scrubby areas. Overall, lions have a relatively broad habitat tolerance, being historically absent only from tropical rainforests and very arid deserts (although some desert-adapted lions manage to persist in areas of Namibia, using the little water and prey available along waterways). Lions can even be found on beaches (especially in Saadani National Park, Tanzania, and on the Skeleton Coast in Namibia) and on mountain ridges, provided sufficient prey is available!

Habitat requirement 1: Prey availability

Prey availability - giraffes

The most important habitat requirement for lions is the availability of suitable prey. Lions can consume a great variety of prey species; however, their size and social habits are particularly well adapted to predation on larger herbivores, such as buffalo, wildebeest, giraffe, and zebra. Healthy populations of these species are ideal for lions to thrive, and reach their greatest numbers. Nevertheless, lions are highly adaptable in their hunting strategies, and can do well also in areas dominated by smaller prey, such as impala or warthog.

Habitat requirement 2: Cover

In addition to prey, lions also need cover, in the form of long grass, bushes, or trees, to be able to stalk prey and capture it. In fact, studies have shown that lions often select for areas with higher prey ‘catchability’, rather than necessarily availability. Food is not much use, if you can’t catch it! Lions therefore thrive in habitats which are sufficiently covered to allow for stalking, and open enough that they can then give chase effectively once they get close enough.

Lions resting after drinking

Habitat requirement 3: Water

Lions also require water; while they do not need to drink every day, obtaining moisture they from prey, they do require water relatively regularly. This leads lion prides to often hang around the few remaining sources of water in their home range during the dry season - as prey also needs to come to these to drink, they can often access both food and water without having to move much at all! As areas around rivers also often provide good stalking cover, these are particularly frequently used by lions.

Habitat requirement 4: Shade

Finally, as most people who have seen lions in the wild will tell you - lions sleep a lot during the day! As a result, they will always seek shade in the hottest hours of the day, which can take the form of trees, bushes, or rocks - and even cars!

Lion Landscapes
Where large carnivores and people can thrive

African lions are now confined to a number of isolated areas, amounting to only about 8% of their historic range. Much of this shrinking distribution has been due to illegal hunting and habitat destruction.

Today, over 50% of the wild lions remaining live in unprotected range lands, shared with people and livestock. To secure lions and other large carnivores in the wild, we must therefore make their conservation valuable to the people who share the landscape with them. We work with local communities and conservation partners to create landscapes where both large carnivores and local people can thrive. Read more about our Lion Conservation Programmes.

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Please help us support local communities and conserve wildlife for future generations. Thank you!

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