Lioness (Panthera Leo
An adult Lioness (female Lion) weighs up to 23.5 stone (150kg), is 9' (2.7 metres) long, plus her 3' (1 metre) tail and is 3' (1 metre) at the shoulder. Lionesses are unmistakable and once seen, never forgotten..! Resident
Lionesses are only found in some of the game parks and conservation areas of Kenya. They typically live in prides of other females, their cubs and in a fully developed pride, males. Mostly seen in savanna areas, although some are to be found around swamps or woodland areas. Lionesses run and chase after their prey, so are rarely seen in dense woodlands. Longevity
Lionesses are born into a pride and will usually stay within that pride, in a sociable arrangement. If they do leave, a group of them do so, forming the basis of a separate pride. Lionesses have a gestation period of 115 days (longer, if the female decides there is insufficient food around) and give birth to up to 6 cubs
. They only leave a pride on their own to have cubs, which they hide in dense undergrowth. They introduce the cubs to the pride when the cubs are around 6 - 12 weeks old and strong enough to lactate from any other nursing female, without being bullied by other, stronger cubs. All lactating Lionesses act as 'Aunties' to all cubs, allowing the mothers to go and hunt en-mass.
A Lioness will live between 16 - 18 years in the wild, longer in captivity. Predators
Lionesses have no predators, apart from when they are cubs. Only when hunting and bringing down prey can a Lioness receive mortal wounds from horns or hooves. Man is the biggest predator of Lionesses and it is for good reason that they are one of Kenya's "Big Five". Behaviour
Young Lionesses may form a group and leave a pride, especially if food sources are tight. Generally, all Lionesses in a pride are related and stay together. Lionesses are extremely sociable and feed each others cubs. When greeting each other, much rubbing of faces, with tails erect, takes place.
Lionesses are the main food providers in a pride, being faster than male Lions
and more numerous in a pride. Hunting tactics often utilise several Lionesses circling their quarry and their speed provides an additional advantage.
Lionesses will protect pride male Lions against strangers, but if new dominant males take over the pride, they accept that their cubs will be killed and the new males are mated with, without reservation. In a way, this is a good thing, eliminating much of the in-breeding and subsequent disease that Lions suffer from. Diet
Lionesses are fairly fast, achieving speeds of around 37mph (60kph), but Antelope or similar animals that twist and turn when running often escape from Lionesses. Instead, they either rely on stealth or out-manourvering their prey by several Lionesses circling it.
Lionesses are also quite patient and I have observed them waiting quietly, for several hours, outside a Warthog burrow. Simply a 'hamburger-sized' snack, this behaviour is generally only conducted during the hotter hours and Lionesses prefer to hunt at night, or during the cooler parts of the day.
Favouite prey for Lionesses are Wildebeest
and African Buffalo
. All somewhat slower than Impala
or Thomson's Gazelle
. Other Lioness Facts
One Lioness equals five Hyena
. Lions are great scavengers and steal food from other carnivores. But five Hyena outrank a Lioness and will steal food from her.
Lionesses will often hide near watering holes, waiting for prey to come to drink. They use this form of ambush to catch food, rather than run after it.
Most prey killed by Lionesses is by strangulation, with the Lioness covering both mouth and nose of the prey with her mouth. Photographs
Images taken in Kenya's Masai Mara, Nairobi National Park and Olara Orok Conservancy.