1. Ruaha National Park is home to one of the greatest concentrations of lions in all of Africa.
2. Lions live in prides composed of many generations of females—who are often related—and their young, as well as a smaller amount of adult males. Pride females hunt, feed, and raise their cubs cooperatively. Pride males tend to associate with each other more than with females.
3. Measuring 160-250 cm in length and weighing 120-260 kg, male lions can be as much as 50% larger than female lions.
4. Around the age of three, male lions are expelled from their pride and forced into a nomadic lifestyle. After the age of five, having grown larger and stronger, they attempt to take a pride over from an older male. Some of these attempts are successful—causing the average male tenure to be only two to three years—yet many others are not: some males remain nomads for life.
5. A lion’s mane can say a lot about his mating prospects. Shorter and lighter manes, associated with recent illness, injury, or weakness, are less likely to intimidate rival males considering a pride takeover. Additionally, lionesses often prefer darker manes in their mates—perhaps because male lions with darker manes must endure higher body temperatures, and thus tend to be stronger.
6. Lion prides are aggressive about marking their territory, and they do so by urinating around the periphery of their land and roaring loudly at potential encroachers. At night, these roars can be heard nearly five miles away.
7. Lions can reach a maximum speed of about 48 to 59 kph, but they can only hold that pace for around 100m. For this reason, experienced lions tend not to launch an attack unless their prey is within 30m, or at least turned away from them.
8. Although lions tend to hunt cooperatively in groups to take down larger prey, individual lions often take down animals twice their weight, such as wildebeests and zebras. Some are even able to take down buffalo on their own, despite the fact that they can be four times their own weight.
9. Ripping through a buffalo’s hide can be a tough challenge for lions, since the skin is a half-inch thick over most of the body—and a full inch thick around the neck.
10. Despite being only 30-150 cm tall, African buffalo are extremely heavy, weighing 425-870 kg.
11. Buffalo herds include both sexes, and are composed of smaller subgroups of closely related females and their young. Taken as a whole, these herds can number over a thousand strong.
12. Communication is very important within a buffalo herd. Buffalo can produce sounds of many different lengths, pitches, and patterns of repetition, each having its own meaning. Calls to move as a group, to seek water, to indicate one’s location, to send a warning to a lower-ranking buffalo, and to issue a distress call, for instance, all have distinct qualities.
13. Unlike wildebeest and other bovids in the savannah, African buffalo calves take several weeks to become strong and coordinated enough to keep up with the adults. When the herd moves too quickly, calves can fall behind—forcing a mother to choose between staying with her baby and moving on with the others.
14. Ever since 1996, the Great Ruaha River has dried up completely during the peak of the dry season, taking a huge toll on local wildlife. A major reason for this is that many of its tributaries have been diverted for rice irrigation projects upstream.
15. One of Ruaha’s most distinctive features is its enormous baobab trees, whose trunks can be as much as 9 metres thick. Although a great deal of these trees have been destroyed by elephants, many are believed to have survived here for over 2,000 years.