“Behind Those Lion Eyes”
Photo Credit: Sean Braine
Hobatere, Namibia (located on the Western Edge of Etosha National Park)
Pictured here is perhaps the most famous and revered of all African wildlife, the Lion (Panthera leo). Lions are the second largest of the four “Big Cats” in the genus Panthera (the Tiger, Panthera tigris, being the largest living cat species).
10,000 years ago Lions were among the most abundant large land mammals on earth! They could be found all over Africa, across Eurasia from western Europe to India, and in the Americas as well. Today, wild Lions can only be found in Sub-Saharan Africa (where this photo was taken), parts of Asia, and a small endangered population exists in Gir Forrest National Park, India. Their population has seen an even steeper decline as of late, dropping 30-50% percent over the past two decades in Africa alone. The reason for this drop is unknown, but habitat loss and conflict with humans are likely the greatest cause for concern. There are currently eight recognized subspecies of Lion, and this particular Lioness most likely belongs to the subspecies, P. l. bleyenberghi, or the Southwest African (Katanga) Lion.
A Lion’s eyes are proportionately larger than those found in other comparable sized animals, and they possess small round pupils. Many people believe that a Lion’s eyes can glow in the dark, but in reality they contain a special coating which reflects moonlight (and starlight) at night. This coating increases the lion’s night vision by ensuring every possible photon of light makes it to the cells in the retina. Notice the small white marks located just below this Lioness’ eyes, these help reflect light as well, and further improves her night vision.
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