Mammalian Biology

, Volume 69, Issue 6, pp 375–383 | Cite as

The composition of African lion (Panthern leo) milk collected a few days postpartum

  • H. O. De WaalEmail author
  • G. Osthoff
  • A. Hugo
  • J. Myburgh
  • P. Botes
Original investigation


There is very Little information on the composition of lion milk. Milk was obtained from all four teats of two African lionesses (Panthern leo) while they were temporarily immobilized.; the first lioness was 40 hours postpartum and the second lioness was 10 days postpartum. The lion’s milk obtained from the two lionesses in this study contained less solids than reported in literature. The milk of the two females contained, respectively, 192.2 and 166.9 g dry matter/kg milk.; 60.2 and 84.6 g protein/kg milk.; 113.6 and 136.9 g fat/kg milk.; and 68.6 and 77.9 g fat free dry matter/kg milk. Carbohydrate content, analysed only for the first lioness, was 26.5 g lactose/kg milk. These values are much lower than those cited in literature. Electrophoresis and identification of protein bands showed a similar pattern of proteins as seen in cow’s milk, but with caseins of less negative charge and whey proteins of smaller molecular size. The milk fat content of the second lioness was higher and varied considerably more among teats. The lipid fraction of lion’s milk is characterized by a high content of saturated (palmitic and stearic) and mono-unsaturated (palmi-toleic and oleic) fatty acids. Regarding fatty acid composition, lion milk closely resembles human milk. Animal fat plays an important role in the nutrition of African lions. The high fat content of lion milk suggests that the dependency by large predators such as lions on dietary fat is present from birth.

Key words

Panthern leo African lion milk composition 

Die Zusammensetzung der Milch von afrikanischen Löwen (Panthern leo) einige Tage postpartum


Milch wurde von allen vier Zitzen zweier afrikanischer Löwinnen (Panthern leo) entnommen, während sie kurzfristig immobilisiert waren. Die erste Löwin war 40 Stunden postpartum und die zweite 10 Tage postpartum. Die Milch der beiden Löwinnen in dieser Untersuchung enthielt weniger Trok-kenmasse als in der Literatur beschrieben. Die Milch der beiden Löwinnen enthielt unterschiedlich 192,2 bzw. 166,9 g Trockenmasse/kg Milch.; 60,2 bzw. 84,6 g Protein/kg Milch.; 113,6 bzw. 136,9 g Fett/kg Milch.; und 68,6 bzw. 77,9 g fettfreie Trockenmasse/kg Milch. Der Kohlen hydratge-halt war nur für Milch der ersten Löwin bestimmt als 26,5 g Laktose/kg Milch. Diese Werte sind generell wesentlich niedriger als bisher beschrieben. Elektrophorese und Identifizierung der Proteinbanden wiesen ein gleiches Muster auf wie Proteine aus Kuhmilch, aber Kaseine trugen eine geringere negative Ladung und Molkeproteine hatten geringere Molekulargewichte. Der Milchfettgehalt der zweiten Löwin war höher mit mehr Variation zwischen den Zitzen. Das Fett der Löwenmilch ist charakterisiert durch einen hohen Gehalt an gesättigten (Palmitat und Stearat) und mono-unge-sättigten (Palmitoleat und Oleat) Fettsäuren. In Fettsäurezusammensetzung liegt menschliche Milch der Löwenmilch am nächsten. Tierisches Fett spielt eine wichtige Rolle in der Nahrung der afrikanischen Löwen. Der hohe Fettgehalt der Löwenmilch deutet an, daß die Abhängigkeit von diätischem Fett bei großen Predatoren schon von der Geburt anwesend ist.


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Copyright information

© Deutsche Gesellschaft für Säugetierkunde 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • H. O. De Waal
    • 1
    Email author
  • G. Osthoff
    • 2
  • A. Hugo
    • 2
  • J. Myburgh
    • 2
  • P. Botes
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Animal, Wildlife and Grassland SciencesAfrican Large Predator Research UnitSouth Africa
  2. 2.Department of Microbial, Biochemical and Food Biotechnology, Faculty of Natural and Agricultural SciencesUniversity of the Free StateBloemfonteinSouth Africa

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