Moving on from the majestic elephant, we focus on the lion – the king of the jungle. This title came about due to their superiority among predators, but they can be intimidated by buffaloes and elephants, who also happen to be larger than them. Not that size necessarily matters, as hyenas are bitter enemies and have been known to corner a lion. It is a further misleading title as African lions do not inhabit jungles. Africa typically consists of savannah and deserts, which form the lions' habitat. This title was not, however, loosely assigned and this big cat is extremely powerful and the male is quite impressive with his glorious mane.
Symbolically, they are seen as a sign of power and strength and with its mighty roar, who would argue? They are known to symbolise courage, wisdom, royalty, justice, protection, loyalty, perseverance, ferocity, bravery, victory and compassion. Due to these attributes, it became the national symbol of England in order to represent the warriors of medieval England. It remains the country's national animal and is even used for sports' team logos and icons. In Egypt, the lion represented the heat of the sun and was seen in the likeness of the Egyptian goddess Sekhmet. Within Greek mythology, lions drew chariots for the gods and goddesses Dionysus, Phoebus, Cybele and Artemis and as such were seen as guardians. In Hinduism the lion is an avatar of Vishnu and, in Buddhism, Buddha sits upon the lion as a throne of strength and wisdom.
It has been popularly and diversely used in both film and literature, examples such as Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia, Simba in The Lion King and the Cowardly Lion from The Wizard of Oz springing to mind. In South Africa it finds its place on the R50 banknote and is the name for one of its provincial rugby teams.
Lions are sadly also endangered and listed as threatened by CITES. Lions were found in areas ranging from Africa to Greece and throughout the Middle East to northern India. Threats from human beings such as population expansion and occupation of lands for agricultural use have caused habitat loss for lions. Poaching, hunting of lions for sport and poisoning by livestock ranchers to kill them has also endangered them. Today, in Africa, they can be seen only in the south Sahara desert and in parts of southern and eastern Africa. No matter what its title, this is certainly a wild cat both majestic and glorious and not to be trifled with.
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