The lion pride provides these big cats with a unique social structure which allows them to succeed where as individuals they would have failed to survive. It proved so successful that 10 000 years ago lions lived on every continent in the world except Australia.
It couldn't however protect them against the inexorable spread of man into their habitat and now in the wild they only occur in a small pocket in India and in Africa south of the Sahara.
None of the other big cat species worldwide have a pride structure so lions are unique in that respect.
And one of the reasons it evolved is that despite their immense strength they are reasonably poor hunters having neither the speed of the cheetah or the stealth of the leopard.
In fact, even when they work as a pride only one in five of their hunts are successful.
Male lions are driven from the group when they are between two and four years old and they then have to fend for themselves until they are strong enough to challenge another male for domination.
If they can't take over a pride by toppling the incumbent male, their chances of survival plunge dramatically but success means that they don't have to hunt for themselves anymore because the females do that for them and they eat first at any kill.
In return they need to protect the females and their cubs against danger which can take many forms on the African savannah.
When they first take over the males will attempt to kill any cubs sired by the ousted male in an attempt to get the females to mate with them sooner. They don't always succeed though, especially if the lionesses stand together against them.
Social bonds are reinforced between members with vocalizations, cheek rubbing and grooming which helps foster peaceful relations between members.
More lion pictures of a male chasing hyenas, cubs and a pride feeding on an elephant all taken on safari in Africa...