Lions give birth to as many as 6 cubs throughout the year. Lion cubs weigh approximately 2-4 pounds at birth and completely dependent on adults for their care. Only abut half of all cubs survive the first year. Males are forced to leave a pride at about 2 years of age, and then become nomadic until they can take over a pride of their own. Females form alliances that last a lifetime and often remain in their birth pride for life.
Each pride consists of 2 -20 closely related female lions, including mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, and cousins. The number of members of a pride is determined by the availability of prey and other resources. Females have an egalitarian social structure and share responsibilities of the pride, including taking care of each other's cubs, hunting, and defense.
Resident Male Lion
Resident male lions live within a pride in coalitions of 1- 4 other males, related females and cubs. Resident male lions don’t often participate in hunings, except when hunting large prey, such as buffalo. Male lions have a stockier, powerful build better designed to defend and protect the pride, while the female’s leaner, more agile body is better-designed for hunting most prey. Resident males spend much of their waking time surveying and marking the pride’s territory to guard against potential intruders, although female lions will also defend the pride when necessary. A male lion’s roar can be heard up to 8 km. The male's pride tenure is only approximately 2-3 years before being challenged by another male or group of males. Post-resident male lions are either killed during the challenge or become nomadic once again.
Male lions usually become nomadic twice in a lifetime: first when they when they reach maturity at approximately 2-3 years of age and leave the pride, either on their own initiative or by force. They can become nomadic again as adults if they have successfully become resident males. Eventually, a resident male will be challenged by another nomad male lion or coalition of nomads. If he has not been killed in the challenge, the lion will once again become nomadic. The life of a nomad male is especially difficult because these lions do not possess a known territory with secure water and food resources. Nomad males usually form coalitions, often with related males. These coalitions hunt and scavenge for food together as well as fight as a team when challenged or when challenging another pride.
Historically, lions have symbolized power, courage, and nobility. Lions are the only truly social large cat. A pride consists of an extended family unit centered on a group of as many as 15 related females, their young, and 1-4 resident males. Pride size varies widely based on environmental factors, food availability, and reproductive success. Their social system, a complex fission-fusion social unit (Packer 1990), is based on cooperation and shared responsibilities within the pride. Lions live in social groups to increase their hunting success, better protect their young, keep individuals safe from attack, and to secure long-term territories.