When they told me to reach out and touch the lion, I was so scared, but I did it! Spending time with lions was one of the most exciting parts of my trip so far. Read more to see some awesome pictures and learn all about them!
When you think of Africa, what is one of the first animals you think of? Is it a lion?! Lions are popular animals in Africa and I was really lucky to meet one! During a trip to Zambia, I visited an organization called ALERT, which stands for the African Lion Environment and Research Trust. They taught me everything I need to know about African lions.
After I had learned a lot about lions, they told me I was ready to meet one! I immediately thought about the scary videos I had seen on television of lions eating other animals. This made me scared! The guides I was with had worked with lions for a long time though and promised me the baby cubs would be friendly. They were right!
What does this creature or plant look like?
While visiting Zambia, I spent time with an organization called ALERT, the African Lion Environment and Research Trust. I learned a lot about lions and how important they are to the environment. We walked with the baby lions, too. I was able to touch one!
If you haven’t seen a lion before, they are huge cats. The baby lions, called cubs, were only a few months old but they were still so big! They were almost as big as three of your desks put together. Most lions have golden fur that is a little shiny. They have really strong muscles. Even though we did not see them, male lions have big manes on their necks. Have you ever seen a lion with a mane?
Because lions are big and it is hot, they get tired easily. The lions we walked with would not go far before they laid down to rest. They let out massive yawns! Lions are also very social animals. This means they love to play with each other. It’s scary to watch them play because they use their claws and teeth! Because lion skin is very thick, they can play without hurting each other.
How did I feel when I saw it?
I was nervous to walk with lions because they are carnivores. A carnivore is an animal that eats meat. In the wild, lions will eat animals as big as a giraffe! I knew I was safe because the ALERT guides have been taking care of the lions in captivity for a long time.
Before we met the lions, the guides told us some rules about walking with them. For example, they told us that you should never approach a lion from the front because they might think you want to fight or play. Before I knew it, the lions were walking out of the bushes toward us!
In the wild, lions live together in a pride. A pride is like a big lion family. Because the lions we saw were raised by our guides, they
learned to treat them as the head of the pride. In the wild, the head of the pride decides what the entire group does, including where
they move. While we moved through the bush, the lions followed the guide. We were careful to follow closely behind the lions.
Finally the moment came for me to touch a lion! I was so scared! One of the cubs laid down to rest and a guide told me it was okay to
slowly approach the lion from behind. I slowly walked up behind the lion and after a few deep breaths, touched him! His fur was softer than I expected but still rough. He didn’t even seem to notice or mind that I was there!
Where does it live?
Lions live in Africa and some places in Eurasia. They like to live in places that are hot and dry. It is also important that they have many animals to eat wherever they live. Lions will follow herds of zebra, antelope, or wildebeest to make sure they stay fed.
There are many lions in sub-Saharan Africa but the total number has been dropping fast. Part of the reason there are fewer lions is because of human activity. Sometimes humans take the land that lions need to live on. Other times humans kill lions for sport.
ALERT is a great organization because they raise lions to release them back into the wild. The cubs I walked with will one day live there! It is important to have lions because they eat other animals. By eating other animals they keep the numbers of zebra, wildebeest, and antelope from getting too big!
How does it use its environment to survive?
Lions get everything they need from their environment. Because they are mobile creatures, they don’t have one place they call home. Instead, lions might walk a little during the day and rest under trees at night.
Lions eat animals in the area around them. They might eat zebra, antelope, wildebeest and sometimes even animals as big as a giraffe or elephant! Lions need to eat every few days. I was surprised to learn it’s actually the females who do the hunting!
Lions drink from puddles or pools of water they find in the wild. Can you believe they can go up to five days without water?!
What can harm this creature? Are we worried about it?
We should be worried that the number of lions is dropping quickly. Like I said before, human activity is one of the biggest reasons for this drop. Lions are also affected by rising Earth temperatures and new diseases.
Luckily, there are organizations like the one I visited to work on keeping lions from going extinct. If you’re interested in knowing more about the lions I’d love to answer more questions! If you would like to do some research on your own, look at ALERT’s website! Here’s the link: http://lionalert.org/