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Phenotypic and reproductive characteristics of lions (Panthera leo) at Addis Ababa Zoo

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A study was conducted to describe the physical characteristics and the reproductive performances of the Addis Ababa Zoo lions. Length from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail, tail length and height at withers were 255 ± 15, 105 ± 11, and 110 ± 7 cm for adult males (n = 8), and 236 ± 11, 94 ± 10, and 98 ± 8 cm for adult females (n = 8), respectively. The lions had dark brown manes extending down the chest through the front legs, down the back below the shoulders and the length of the belly through the groin; the mane that surrounds the face was golden and the eyes have clear light irises. These characteristics fit the description of the Barbary and Cape lions. The reproductive performances of the females were as follows: age at first parturition was 4 ± 0.5 years; litter size was 1.6 ± 0.9; gestation period was 115 ± 5 days; parturition interval was 25 ± 15 months; and pregnancy rate was 30 ± 16%; the duration of estrus was 5 ± 1.5 days. For the male the age at which the mane was fully grown was 3.6 ± 0.7; frequency of copulation was 16.5 ± 7.5 per day; the duration of copulation lasted 12.2 ± 9 s; and the refractory period was 50 ± 25 min. Mean preweaning, weaning to one year and adult mortalities were 55, 51 and 27%, respectively. Mean life expectancy was 12.8 years for the female while for the male it was 8.5 years. The causes of adult mortality appear to be senility, enteritis and pneumonia, while cub mortality is primarily due to maternal rejection. There is also a 100% prevalence rate of Toxocara cati. Further study on the genetics, causes of mortality and reintroduction to natural habitat is recommended.

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Tefera, M. Phenotypic and reproductive characteristics of lions (Panthera leo) at Addis Ababa Zoo. Biodiversity and Conservation 12, 1629–1639 (2003).

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