The lion, Panthera leo, is one of the largest living cats in the world second only to its larger cousin, the tiger. However, these species are very different from one another. The lion is a social predator—and the only social feline in the world—as well as a cursorial predator. Sleeping mainly during the day, lions are typically more active at night (nocturnal), although some individuals and groups are more active at twilight (crepuscular).
Historically, the lion’s range included the whole of Africa, southern portions of Europe, India, and much of Southwest Asia. Today, due to human encroachment (urban and commercial development, agriculture, and pollution) and disturbance (war), their range has been drastically reduced. While most countries in sub-Saharan Africa are home to lions, the largest remaining ranges are in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, Tanzania, Kenya, and the Central African Republic. Outside of Africa, the only remaining lions are a single, isolated sub-population—Panthera leo persica—in India’s Gir Forest National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary.
The lion has a fairly broad range of ecological tolerance, meaning that it is well suited in a number of different ecosystems. Lions have been recorded in the Bale Mountains and on Kilimanjaro, absent only from the tropical rainforests of Africa and the interior of the Sahara Desert. In India, the remaining Asiatic lion inhabits a dry deciduous forest.
These social cats live together in groups, typically divided by gender into family groups of related females called prides and pairs or groups of males called coalitions. Coalitions compete for tenure with pride groups, which average between four to six adults (male and female).
Prey consists of mainly of medium- to large-sized ungulates (antelopes, zebra, and wildebeest), but lions will predate on almost anything from small rodents to larger mammals like rhino, giraffe, and elephant. While lions do not typically hunt humans, some have, earning the species a reputation as man eaters.
The Conservators Center is currently home to 15 lions, many of whom arrived as part of a USDA placement after the Ohio State Fish and Wildlife Service seized animals from poor living conditions in 2004. Of the 10 lions who arrived at the Center in 2004, three were pregnant and gave birth to over 10 cubs.
The Conservators Center does not breed, nor has it bred any large cats. These species are well represented in captivity and as such they do not meet the requirements for our conservation breeding program.
Calvin leads the Mixed Pride, a group of three lions and a tiger who have lived together since they were a few weeks old. Benevolent and rather laid-back, Calvin rarely intervenes in the behavior of his pride-mates unless he senses tension in the group, when he will assert himself to keep the peace. Calvin also loves a good meal, and ensures his companions’ leftovers rarely go to waste. Calvin is also best friends with Wic Tiger, although he remains befuddled as to why his “striped brother” chooses to spend so much time in the pool.
Katrina, the dominant female in the Mixed Pride, has been described by staff members as “assertive, athletic, intelligent…and a queen bee.” Katrina is quite happy to try to take over Calvin’s role of supervising the other cats’ activities and keeping everyone in line. Manners are very important to Katrina, and she feels strongly that all the cats in her pride—even the striped one—should behave like proper lions. When anyone in the pride is breaking protocol or being rude, Katrina loudly scolds them until the offending lion or tiger apologizes with a head butt that meets her exacting standards.
Savik, the Mixed Pride soccer superstar, loves to entertain visitors by dribbling and chasing one of the many balls in her enclosure. She’s a playful girl overall who is the first to investigate enrichment -- she especially loves to shove her head inside boxes and roll around with this new ‘hat’ on! Of course, like all lions, Savik spends most of her time snoozing...she just happens to be a little more active than most cats. Her favorite locations to nap are in the sunshine on top of the three-tiered hammock tower or in the shade on the patio of her pride’s den box. She can occasionally be found sleeping on her back with all four of her paws in the air, and she seems to be totally comfortable even when visitors see her in that adorable position. Who doesn’t love a warm tummy?
While all of our male lions are strong, regal, and handsome, Enoch is a leading contender for the title of “most gorgeous lion” here at the Center. Enoch behaves as though he is the center of the universe, and he can get a bit pushy when it comes to food or attention. (Of course, as our youngest male lion, he also might be just a little bit spoiled.) All of Enoch’s efforts to prove to the world that he’s a big, tough lion are forgotten when those who knew him as a cub stop by for a visit, however. He can become affectionate and playful and, if spoken to in a sing-song voice, may choose to accept treats or scented enrichment gifts to roll on.
Hannah and her brother, Enoch Lion, are inseparable. An intensely engaged, energetic girl, Hannah has a beautiful “Disney princess” face and an adorable habit of resting her head or chin on whatever surface is available—including logs, water dishes, and her brother, Enoch. Enoch can be pretty pushy, though, and Hannah usually finds it easier to just let him have his way until she can find a way to sneak behind his back. However, when Enoch is napping or out of sight behind one of the den boxes or platforms in their enclosure, Hannah will often try to persuade passers-by to give her some extra attention or a tasty treat. After all, what Enoch doesn’t know won’t hurt him!
Matthai is more shy than his siblings Calvin, Katrina and Savik when it comes to visitors, but he is an enthusiastic recipient of attention from the people he knows best. Matthai can frequently be found lying on a platform sunning himself or lounging in his hammock snoozing and watching the world go by. He is a little nervous by nature, so he relies on cues from his bolder neighbors like Willow and Calvin when deciding how to react to new experiences like a person playing acoustic guitar nearby or if there is a loud noise nearby. While Matthai often joins in when the lions start oofing (calling to one another), we’ve discovered that this lazy boy frequently lip syncs. His body is heaving, his mouth is forming the characteristic square shape associated with oofing, but absolutely no sound is coming out. Apparently, making noise is sometimes just too much work!
“Handsome Hansen” has a solemn-yet-attractive face that seems to say, “Hey, what’re YOU looking at?” A definite "bad boy" type, he is well aware of his rugged beauty and has spent much of his life wooing his one true love, Willow Lioness. While Willow certainly appreciates his company, she loves her sister, Adeena, who she has never been apart from...and despite Hansen’s confidence, the two girls will sometimes butt him out of their games and grooming, much to his chagrin. Hansen calmly tolerates their special bond and lavishes them both with affection whenever they will allow it.
A lovable but very mischievous girl who is full of energy (at least by lion standards), Willow thrives on attention and gets particularly interested when visitors take her picture with their tablets. Yes, like iPads. Even if she’s in the middle of a nap, Willow will trot over from her resting place to examine the human holding the tablet, as well as the tablet itself. (If only they made Apple products for lions!) Costumes, too, attract her attention, so Halloween at the Conservators Center is great fun for this wide-faced, strong-legged girl. Willow loves to tease, and she finds it fun to startle Hansen when he is napping by sneaking over to pounce right behind him and make him jump.
Good-humored Adeena loves human attention almost as much she loves her sister, Willow. The two often cuddle together, even in the warmest weather. Adeena is very perceptive, and we’ve noticed that she tends to feed off of the energy around her. If Willow or their pride male, Hansen, are having a grumpy day, Adeena appears to mope with them. If they are upbeat and happy, then Adeena is, too. When things are really good (for example, when she realizes that someone has brought cardboard sprayed with her favorite scent, peppermint), Adeena often sits downs, puts up her front paws, and bats them together as if to say, “I’m trying to be a dignified lion, but I’m so excited that I just can’t contain myself a moment longer!”
Ah, Gryffindor Lion...a cat of many moods! Our emotional boy gets very excited about visitors, defends his food with energetic passion, and becomes quite grumpy if he does not get his way. On the other hand, Gryffindor also loves boomer balls (lion-tough toys), splashes in his water dish on hot days, and melts when you talk “baby talk” to him…as long he thinks no one is looking! It can be tough for a new human to impress Gryf, but he does accept gifts such as honeysuckle vine and toys that smell like other big cats as bribes to make him more seriously consider a person’s request for friendship. His favorite people are his Lifetime Adopters and our leadership team, at whom he will grumble his complex opinions!
As a very young cub still nursing on his mother, this lion sustained a couple of large scratches on his face, earning him the nickname of “Scarface.” Not wanting to risk nicknaming him after a Disney villain, his name changed to Pacino, which is appropriate for this brawny lion with a thick body and muscular legs. Like many of our animals, Pacino is very food-motivated, and loves treats, fun smells, and live music, particularly acoustic guitar. It’s especially sweet to see this formidable lion turn into a big ol’ softie when the music starts.
Our resident “Fabio,” Ra, has a long, flowing mane that ripples in the breeze as he perches on top of his platform tower surveying the park. Fascinated with anything flying above him -- including airplanes -- this lion boy loves to watch any activity in the sky. He is also inquisitive and carefully investigates anything remotely new about his surroundings, taking his job as an adult male lion with an extended pride family seriously. One Halloween our decorations included a life-sized witch mannequin (nicknamed “Aggie the Haggie”) who was introduced to many of the animals from outside as a form of enrichment. Ra was fascinated by this strange creature and spent quite a long time examining her through the fence and posturing his displeasure until she moved along out of his area.
When Miss Kira arrived, she had been living with a hip issue since birth. We didn’t have the option to introduce her to an existing lion pride -- we felt that other lions could bully or injure her. When little Arthur Tiger came to the Center we moved him in as her neighbor, and they bonded from when he was very young. Though she likes to groom, snuggle with, and play with Arthur, she also has no problems letting him know when she’s had enough. (He can be pesky!) Kira loves new toys and scent enrichment. She is completely unconcerned with people thinking she is silly, so she will cut loose wearing a box over her head or rolling on her back to play with vines like a kitten.
A very talkative lion, Daisy frequently appears to offer commentary regarding other cats’ activities in the compound. When all the lions start oofing (calling to one another), Daisy enjoys adding her unique, raspy voice to the chorus. She uses her zealous oofs to let the tiger living next door know she is watching his behavior, and to attempt to correct him on occasion. She takes irrepressible pleasure in rolling in her lush grass and carrying her meals around to eat them in the best shady spot. Her eccentric personality makes her a joy to watch...or, rather, to hear: even from a deepest sleep, she will wake up to respond enthusiastically to other lions calling.
Kiara is a large lioness who wants all the attention—and all the food! She came to the Center as a member of a four-member pride, but unfortunately the last of her companions passed away in October 2015. She seems quite content as a single lion, though she may yet accept a new suitor. She does pay attention to the handsome young males nearby, but mostly she grumps at them if they are having too much fun with a toy or she thinks they got a more impressive meal than she did. As a singleton, she doesn’t have to compete with anyone else for attention from her favorite people. Considering Kiara’s advanced age, we appreciate that her outgoing nature makes taking care of her pretty easy.