Within the Kalahari Desert of southern Africa, you’ll find a plethora of gorgeous beasts roaming free—including leopards, rhinos and more. However, they arguably pale in comparison to the powerful and proud Kalahari lion. This unique big cat is king of the desert and for good reason.
These incredible animals have territories that stretch farther than any other kind of lion in Africa. Prey density is noticeably low, so these expert hunters have spread their numbers far to keep fed and assert their control. Learn more about these incredible desert animals and discover what makes the Kalahari lion so unique.
One of the most distinctive features of the Kalahari lion is their black man. When you think of a lion, you probably picture a proud beast with a golden or brown mane. The Kalahari lion has adapted to have a dark black mane encasing their impressive profile, a unique trait among lion species.
Their traits aren’t all superficial, however. The Kalahari lion is an expert desert hunter with every facet of its body evolved to survive in this harsh environment. They have leaner bodies with longer legs and impressive endurance. This allows them to traverse the long desert wastes with ease. They can even go weeks with drinking water. The moisture found in their prey is enough to keep them sated for a while.
Prey is more widespread in the Kalahari, so the influence and territory of these lions must stretch farther so they can claim the food they need. Hunting parties can be filled with an entire pride or have as little as a single mating pair. This has unfortunately lead to a high mortality rate for their cubs, as lionesses are out on hunts for so long.
The scorching heat of the Kalahari has forced a lot of the wildlife activity underground where snakes and scorpions lie in wait for their prey. The problem that lions face, however, is the sheer vastness of the desert. Springboks and Gemsboks may be hard to come by, so lions have to resort to hunting smaller animals like foxes, aardvarks and mice.
Kalahari lions are highly aggressive. They will move on anything that enters their territory—whether it be animals, other predators or humans. However, their show of intimidation rarely results in an actual attack if the source of their ire backs off.
Numerous scientists have studied the Kalahari lions over the years and report several unique encounters. Sometimes lions will walk among their camps though it’s unclear whether they are scouting or merely curious. One thing is certain; no one has ever been able to tame a Kalahari lion.
You can see these magnificent beasts for yourself from safely inside a vehicle that can outrun any lion. Reading about them might evoke some excitement, but seeing one in person is an experience you’ll be hard-pressed to forget. Book a southern African safari today and you’ll have the chance to lay your eyes on this incredible animal you won’t find anywhere else in the world.
Jill Liphart for Roho Ya Chui