The lion belongs to the cat family. It is the largest of the big cats, ranking second to the tiger. A lion has a well-built, muscular body that is long and slender. It has short legs and a large head. An adult male is 6 to 7 feet long, excluding its 3 feet-long tail. It stands about 4 feet in height at the shoulders and weighs 170-230 kg. Today the lion can be seen only in the jungles of Africa and India and is reported to be dwindling fast in number.
The lion is a social animal, quite unlike other members of the cat family. It lives in groups called ?prides?, which normally comprise of five to 35 members.
The lion'soutstanding characteristic is its mane, which could vary in colour from brown to black and in thickness. The female lion does not have the mane. The lion prefers fresh meat though it can eat the carcass left behind by hyenas or vultures. It hunts by night when it can see very well, whereas its prey cannot see properly in darkness. A lion is slower than its prey, such as the zebra, the antelope, the giraffe or the buffalo.
The lion has been kept in captivity since the days of Roman Empire when it was confined to the cage, either to participate in the circus or to be kept in the zoo. Since the declaration of the Gir National Park as a wildlife sanctuary as also other lion reserves in India in the early sixties, the Asiatic lion is a protected animal. The Gir Sanctuary is a protected area where the Asiatic lion is seen in its natural habitat.
A lion can span about 30 feet in one leap, jump over a barrier almost 6 feet high and dash a short distance at more than 80 km/hour. Today even the Gir Forest is not considered safe as major roads criss-cross the forest land and a railway track runs closeby, posing a serious danger to its existence. Incidents of lions getting hurt by trains have been reported and so have been stray cases of poaching by ruthless hunters or villagers who go to fell trees in the forest.
To prevent its complete extinction, our slogan should be ?Save the lion, save Nature.?
(The writer is a student, NSDAV Public School, Sitamarhi, Bihar.)