Disney's Animal Kingdom Theme Park
Meet a real Lion King—and his queens—in the expansive wilds of a Disney African savanna.
African Lions in the Wild
African lions live on the flat, grassy savannas of Africa—from the sub-Sahara to the Serengeti plains and all the way to South Africa. Though lions have been called “King of the Jungle,” they don’t live in jungles or rainforests, but instead are found in dry forests, grasslands and desert habitats.
Threats to African Lions
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) currently lists the lion species as “vulnerable”—one step away from “endangered”—with a declining population trend. Current estimates of the African lion population range from 20,000 to 30,000—a 90% decline from their estimated population just three decades earlier!
Disney Conservation Efforts
The Walt Disney Company is passionately committed to the protection of African lions and their natural habitats. Find out what Disney is doing for lions—and how you can help!
“An amazing thing happens when people have the chance to come face-to-face with wildlife. They feel a strong connection, and are motivated to take action to protect wildlife and wild places and the environment.” – Dr. Jackie Ogden, former VP, Animals, Science and Environment, Disney Parks
African lions in the wild are threatened by habitat loss and increased competition from another species—Homo sapiens. But conservation efforts supported by the Walt Disney Company are helping to protect and preserve lions in their natural habitats and across the globe.
Losing the Lion’s Share
Lions are territorial animals. The hunting grounds for a family (pride) of lions are typically 8 square miles (20 km2). But their domain is shrinking. Habitat loss created by droughts, soil erosion, overgrazing and especially human expansion is causing lion populations in the wild to decline in alarming numbers.
As human populations grow in Africa, people push farther into lion country. For many, livestock is their livelihood, their source of food and money. Losing a single goat or cow to a lion attack can be devastating to a family. As a result, people often kill lions to protect their livestock or in retaliation for livestock losses.
Disney Is Helping Lions in the Wild
Since 1995, Disney has supported lion conservation programs in 7 countries. This support has helped to reduce lion attacks on livestock in Tanzania, expand environmental education activities for students in Uganda and teach students about lions in Kenya. It has also helped to develop sustainable tourism enterprises. Additionally, profits from the inspiring Disneynature film African Cats have helped create habitat corridors for lions to safely travel between protected wildlife areas.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom park strives to be the happiest place on earth not just for our Guests—but for our animals, too!
Pride of Place
The lion habitats at Disney’s Animal Kingdom park are designed to enrich the lives of our lions by catering to their unique natural history. The lion habitats are designed to feel as authentic and wild as possible, with open places, large trees for shade and cover, hills, tall grasses, rocks, shrubs, dead trees and stumps and sweeping views—like a true African savanna.
Enrichment is a key theme at Disney. Our goal is to provide opportunities for the lions to display natural behaviors such as playing, stalking, running and scent-marking, while at the same time increasing their physical activity, stimulating their problem-solving abilities and offering them real choices—just like in the wild.
Meatsicles & Aromatherapy
What could be more refreshing on a hot summer day than raw meat or fish frozen in a block of ice—a big-cat treat that keeps lions cool and also encourages them to use their teeth, claws and ingenuity to get to the treat inside. And to promote stalking and hunting behaviors and chasing and swatting exercise, super-tough plastic balls are stuffed with the lions’ favorite scents—cinnamon, clove and pumpkin pie. The lions are entertained, and so are their royal Guests!
Veterinary Care and Animal Training
World-class veterinary care is a top priority at Disney. But how do you get a 400-pound lion to open its mouth for a dental exam? Through animal training! Lions open wide and say "ah" in response to a hand signal from the animal care experts for a closer look at their teeth. Sound cues are used to move lions from their on-show habitat spaces to their night housing, where they can voluntarily step onto a scale to be weighed and participate in their own preventive health exams. All enrichment and training at Disney is accomplished through protective barriers to ensure the safety of the lions and their expert caregivers.
African lions are symbols of nobility—but there’s more to this cat than good looks!
Unlike most cats, lions are highly social, living in family groups (prides) that are ruled and protected by a dominant male. Prides typically consist of 20 to 30 lions, most of them closely related females and their cubs.
Watch Me Roar
Lions are among the 4 big cats (genus Panthera) that roar. Pride males often roar at night to advertise their location and strength or to intimidate rivals during a fight. A lion’s roar can be heard 5 miles (9k) away!
The Mane Thing
Many male lions have magnificent manes—from beige to red-brown to black—while others have very little. The lion’s mane serves to protect his throat when fighting and to make him seem more intimidating to rivals.
Adult male lions weigh up to 500 pounds (227k) and females up to 395 pounds (179k). A typical adult stands 3.5 feet tall (1.1m) and 5.0 feet long (1.5m)—and lives an average of 16.8 years in a zoo (less in the wild).
Mommies and Me
Female lions raise, feed and protect their litters communally—even nursing each other’s cubs! Cubs are born in litters of 1 to 4, and are so helpless that the mother keeps them hidden for the first eight weeks.
Lions are nocturnal, sleeping 20 hours a day and using the cover of night to hunt. Lions’ day vision is similar to ours—we both have great depth perception—but their night vision is 6 times more powerful!
Top of the Food Chain
Lions are carnivores, and the top predators in their ecosystem. They are custom-designed to catch prey that is faster, bigger and stronger than them. How? Through stealth, teamwork and specialized adaptations.
Born to Hunt
Lions’ ears rotate to locate prey, and their padded paws allow a silent approach. A lion can run 37 mph in short bursts, and leap more than 20 feet. One swipe from a lion’s forepaw can knock down a full-grown zebra!
Food for a King
What do lions eat? Anything they can catch! Lions eat herbivores like gazelles, antelopes, zebras and giraffes, and occasionally heavier prey like Cape buffalo. But only 1 in 15 lion hunts is successful!
Lions Help Their Habitat – and Their Prey!
Lions prey on sick and weak animals. Without predators, herbivore herds would outgrow the available food supply—leading to overgrazing, starvation and disease.
What can one person or family do to protect African lions and their habitats? A lot more than you think!
Follow the Story
Help protect lions and their habitats by learning more about them. Watch the Disneynature film African Cats, an epic true story that follows a lioness and her cubs on the great plains of Kenya’s Masai Mara.
Protect Nature and Learn about Lions
Visit a local zoo to observe lions up close and ask the zoo if they need volunteers.
Spread the Word
Tell others about the threats to lions and their habitats by doing a school project on them, or by joining a local conservation organization.
Visit the Websites Below
See how Disney is making the world a better place for lions and their habitats—and the creative ways you can make a difference, too!
“I have learned from the animal world, and what everyone will learn who studies it, is a renewed sense of kinship with the Earth and all its inhabitants.” – Walt Disney