Lion Cub (Panthera Leo
After a gestation period of 115 days, or maybe longer if the Lioness
decides there is insufficient food available, up to six Lion Cubs are born. More usually, three. The cubs weigh just over 3.5lbs (1.6kg), are blind at birth and completely reliant on their mother. Spotted coats help hide them in dense woodland, the spots disappearing over time. After 2 - 3 weeks, the cubs eyes open and are blue but are still unsighted for a further week or so.
The Lioness moves her cubs every few days, to stop a build-up of smells that may attract predators.
At around 24 weeks old, cubs grow the black tip to their tails. Lions are the only cats to feature a black-tipped tail and no one knows what its purpose is. Perhaps to use as a signal to follow in long grass. Resident
Lion Cubs live with their mothers in a group named a 'pride'. Because of the nature of the pride's hunting grounds, they live mostly in open savanna, occasionally around water or on the edge of woodlands. Longevity
50% of Lion Cubs die within the first month of life. Teething weakens the cubs dramatically and others are predated. Occasionally, young Lionesses may even forget where they have left their youngsters and they simply starve to death. Or, young cubs may not be able to keep up with the pride. Only 20% of Lion Cubs reach their second birthday. Predators
Lion Cubs are predated by Hyena
and other predatory cats, especially Leopard
. Martial Eagles
, snakes and even male lions
kill the cubs within the first four weeks of their lives. Behaviour
Lion Cubs are kept from the pride until they are approximately 6 weeks old and can fend for themselves. The Lioness
may decide to keep them away from other, boisterous youngsters until they are 3 months old and can fend for themselves at the milk bar.
Lion Cubs are very sociable and mix with other cubs, often playing seemingly rough games that teach them hunting skills for later in life. Diet
Lion Cubs drink their mother's and Aunties milk until they are 2 - 3 months old, at which point they start to eat meat, despite still having their 'milk teeth'.
At 6 - 7 months old, the cubs are weaned and solely eat meat. By the time they are 12 months old they are taken on hunts with the pride. Despite which, they stay with their mother until they are approximately 2 years old, by which time they are consumate hunters. Other Lion Cub Facts
Lion Cubs take milk not just from their own mother, but any other lactating female in the pride. Most mature females in a pride come into oestrus at the same time, give birth at the same time and the cubs are left in a crèche while mothers go out hunting. Photographs
Images taken in Kenya's Nairobi National Park and Olara Orok Conservancy.