Area of zoo
Enclosure status
IUCN status
Latin name
Panthera leo
Extinct in North Africa. Now found in Africa, south of the Sahara
Varied, from grasslands of East Africa to sands of the Kalahari Desert

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African lion facts

Khari the African lion plays with pumpkins at Whipsnade Zoo

What do African lions look like?

  • Lions are unique among cats in that the male can be easily distinguished from the female (lioness) because he possesses a mane of hair.
  • As in most cats, lions' eyes are adapted for seeing at night when they do a lot of hunting.
  • Their claws can be retracted in sheaths to prevent them getting blunted when walking across the savannah, which they can do almost noiselessly on soft pads.

What do African lions eat?

African lions are carnivorous, mainly eating mammals from giraffes to buffalo, deer and carrion.

What threats do African lions face in the wild?

African lions are categorised as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. Their population is decreasing with threats including hunting, and habitat destruction for logging, livestock farming or housing. 

Are there African lions at Whipsnade Zoo?

Yes, Whipsnade Zoo is home an African lion, Khari. His name means ‘King-like’ in Swahili and he is adventurous, confident and extremely handsome. 

Khari joined us in May 2022 from Blackpool Zoo while their Big Cat House is being renovated. Look out for him in the Africa section of the Zoo, close to our meerkats and zebras. 

Visit our lion habitat at Whipsnade Zoo

While Whipsnade is home to an African lion habitat, London Zoo has Asiatic lions

Lion gifts

Find the perfect present in our online shop with our lion gifts! Every purchases supports ZSL's vital science and conservation work. 

  • Khari the African lion with meat enrichment at Whipsnade Zoo

    Whipsnade Zoo Map

    Visit our lion habitat in the Africa section of the Zoo

  • A cheetah at Whipsnade Zoo


    Cheetahs can reach speeds of up to 100km per hour (70mph) and are the world's fastest land mammal.

  • Two scimitar-horned oryx at Whipsnade Zoo


    Learn more about Whipsnade Zoo's conservation work

  • Book now to visit our animals at Whipsnade Zoo
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