About the Author

James Tyrrell


James had hardly touched a camera when he came to Londolozi, but his writing skills that complemented his Honours degree in Zoology meant that he was quickly snapped up by the Londolozi blog team. An environment rich in photographers helped him develop the ...

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on How To Identify Lions

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Marinda Drake
Master Tracker

Interesting facts. The spot patterns will probably be used once a data base is established. I agree that most lionesess look the same and even the cubs. It is the males that look different. Some with lighter mane than others. I remember the two Matimba’s. They were very different and easy to identify as is the Magingilane.

Michael and Terri Klauber
Guest contributor

James, Thanks for the answer to our question and the interesting post! We are going to have to start “zooming in” to our lioness images to see if we can identify the ones we have seen regularly. Makes sense that they would have unique spot patterns or blemishes!

Darlene Knott
Master Tracker

Very interesting. I have long known about the leopard identification system, but did not know Lions had a similar system. Tail missing, ear damaged, maned lioness, etc. were certainly good id’s, but you are right about the lionesses in particular being so very similar. I will leave the hard stuff to you guys and gals! ?

Malavika Gupta
Senior Digital Ranger

Thanks for the informative article. Identifying lions based on spots must be so much tougher than recognizing leopards. Especially as lions aren’t solitary, making it hard to focus on a individual, and their spots don’t seem as easily distinguishable as leopard spots.

James Tyrrell

Hi Malavika,

I think you’ve hit the nail on the head when you talking about focusing on an individual.
If there a few lions moving around, you tend not to get you binoculars out to look at spot patterns, as it invariably means you will miss out on something that one of the other ones is doing…

Rhonda Oberto

I volunteer at a big cat sanctuary & telling full grown male lions apart is so much easier than then telling females apart. Our cats have come from abuse situations, and just live out their lives peacefully with us. We had one grumpy male lion who was our “Head of the Complaint Department.” He loved to sneak up on guests & snarl & roar & scare them…we volunteers knew when he was going to do that & we loved it. Tal has since crossed the Rainbow Bridge.

Mj Bradley
Senior Digital Ranger

What a great idea.. It sounds like a good project. Not sure many photos would make us online folks recognize the ladies.. But it should be fun to try. Thank you for the pointers!

Denise Vouri
Guest contributor

Another interesting and informative article James. I have seen the differences between the male lions quite often, noticing their manes, tails and especially the battle scars They also seem to travel in pairs or solo- only once or twice have I seen more than four together, so identification is easier. Lionesses seem to travel in “herds” – cubs, sisters, aunts, cousins….. I witnessed the 16 strong Mhagene pride and I don’t know how any one of them could be easily identified, especially on the move. Keep at the study!!

Callum Evans
Guest contributor

All of the typical methods to id lions are right there!! Can’t wait to see the id kit!!

Rich Laburn
Head of Digital

Very interesting and informative facts, thanks for sharing James

Tina Gutierrez

Which lion alive and deceased stands out the most to you and why?

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