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Do Lions Live In The Jungle? Natural Habitat, and Range

No, lions don’t live in the jungle. While the lion is known as “The King of the Jungle”, they don’t live there. Lions live in many habitats but they prefer open savannahs and plains. Their historical range was enormous, spanning most of Africa, southeastern Europe, the middle east, the Caucasus region, and most of India.

Lions are the kings in their natural habitats, but not in the jungle. They dominate the grasslands, savannahs, shrublands, and even open woodlands.

Lions used to have a much wider range and distribution than they do today. While now they are a vulnerable species, in the past they were common throughout Africa, southeastern Europe, and Asia.

In this article, we’ll take a look at the lion’s natural habitat and see where “The King of the Jungle” actually lives. We’ll also look at the lion’s current natural range.

Lions Natural Habitat

Lions are adaptable and live in many habitats. As long as they can find prey, they will survive. Lions prefer savannahs and grassy plains but can also thrive in shrublands, open woodlands, and even montane forests.

While lions used to live in many habitats across the globe, their natural range has shrunk over the last thousand years.

They now reside in a confined number of climates and habitats.


The climate affects the type of organisms found in an environment. As lions are fairly adaptable and were present in many different climates in the past, this is not the case today. 

Due to human expansion, resulting in conflicts with lions, the majestic feline has suffered great habitat loss.

Today lions can be found throughout the following climates:

  • Tropical Climates
  • Arid Climates
  • Temperate Climates
Lions Natural Habitat - Climate

Tropical Climates

Most lions live in a tropical climate. They thrive in tropical savannah environments and they are found in these types of climates across Africa and in the Gujarat state of India.

Lions prefer tropical savannah environments but are also found in the tropical monsoon regions between savannahs and tropical rainforests.

Lions don’t like closed forest environments so they aren’t found in tropical rainforests.

Arid Climates

Many lions also live in arid climates. Most lions that live in this climate are found in arid hot steppes. This type of climate is found throughout eastern and southern Africa, the Sahel region, and in the Gujarat state of India.

Lions are also found in arid hot desert climates, mainly in southern Africa. These types of climates are found in Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa.

Temperate Climates

Lions are also found in temperate climates, especially in west Africa throughout Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, and Malawi. These are regions with temperate dry winters and warm or hot summer climates.

Lions inhabit these temperate regions found in the highlands of east Africa.


Lions are adaptable predators and are found in many different habitats. These habitats vary a lot by climate, vegetation, and physical geography.

The one thing that lions need in their habitat is prey. As long as enough prey is present to sustain a balanced population lions can thrive there.

Here are the main types of habitats that lions live in:

  1. Grasslands
  2. Savannahs
  3. Forests
  4. Deserts
  5. Rivers, Wetlands, and Swamps

1. Grasslands

Lions Natural Habitat - Grasslands

Grasslands and grassy plains are flat or sloping regions characterized by a lack of trees due to the lack of rainfall or other climatic or geographic factors.

Lions thrive in grassland environments. Grasslands with tall and thick coverage are perfect for them as they allow lions to easily stalk their prey.

The large cat lives in grasslands across the African continent, including in the highlands of east Africa.

2. Savannahs

Lions Natural Habitat - Savannahs

Savannahs are in essence a mixture of grasslands and woodlands, with more or fewer trees depending on the region. 

There are four different types of savannahs, and lions are found in most of them:

  • Grass Savannahs: Most of the vegetation is made up of grasses. Trees and shrubs are rare.
  • Shrub Savannahs: Shrubs are abundant but trees are rare. Shrubs are regularly distributed across the landscape.
  • Tree Savannahs: In tree savannahs, trees and shrubs are regularly scattered throughout the environment.
  • Savannah Woodlands: Contrary to popular belief savannahs can have an abundance of trees. They can be more regularly placed than in some forests.[1]

Savannahs are also defined by the amount of rainfall. Woodlands that receive between 1500 and 300 mm of rainfall annually is considered savannah woodlands.[2]

This habitat is the lion’s preferred environment, which is why it makes up the majority of its habitat. They are diverse and teeming with life so lions find prey in abundance.

3. Forests

Lions Natural Habitat - Forests

Forests are habitats with substantial tree coverage with more than 1500 mm of rainfall annually. The trees and vegetation in a forest can be more or less dense. Some forests have a canopy that covers up to 100% of the ground.

By some definitions, forests have high levels of canopy coverage, between 60 to 100%. Other definitions suggest that any area with a tree canopy coverage of over 10% is a forest, making savannahs technically forests too.[3]

Lions thrive in certain types of forests. Although they generally avoid them, they are present in open canopy forests and open woodlands. Food is abundant in this habitat and cover for hunting is also sufficient.

Most lions that don’t live in savannahs live in the montane and tropical moist forests of east and west Africa. The lions in the Gujarat state of India live in dry forests.[4]

4. Deserts

Lions Natural Habitat - Deserts

Deserts are arid environments distinguished by the scarcity of water and rainfall. They are unhospitable places and flora and fauna are generally lacking or rare.

In spite of the unfriendly nature of the environment, there are a few populations of lions that have adapted to life in the desert.

There are stable lion populations living in the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa. This desert covers parts of Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa. 

Lions in the Kalahari have adapted to desert life. They live in smaller groups and cover much larger areas in search of food. Their coats are lighter in color and the males regularly have black manes.[5][6]

5. Rivers, Wetlands, and Swamps

Lions Natural Habitat - Rivers, Wetlands, and Swamps

Water is the essence of life. Animals frequently congregate around rivers, lakes, and other water sources. This ensures their survival even in areas with little rainfall.

Lions aren’t strangers to this habitat. They aren’t afraid of water, and they will use it to their advantage if they have to. They can cross bodies of water and even stalk their prey through the shallows.

Ambushing animals around watering holes is a viable hunting tactic for lions. Lions thrive around rivers, seasonal wetlands, and even swamps and deltas. The Okavango Delta of Botswana is a sanctuary for African wildlife, lions included.[7]

Where Do Lions Live in the World?

Lions live scattered throughout sub-Saharan Africa and the Gujarat state of India, around Gir National park. Their range is diminished compared to their historical range, which covered most of Africa, southwestern Asia, and southeastern Europe.

The lions of today are scattered and live in a fraction of their former range. They are found in sub-Saharan Africa and around the Gir National Park of India.

Lions are separated into two subspecies, the southern and northern lion, sometimes called the African and the Asian lion. This is where the subspecies is found today and where they were found in the past:

RangeNorthern / Asian LionSouthern /African Lion
Actual RangeWest Africa and the northwestern part of Central Africa. Gujarat, India.Southern and Eastern Africa. Eastern Central Africa.
Historical RangeMost of Northern and Western Africa including the Sahara.Parts of Central Africa. From southeastern Europe and the Caucasus to Most of India.Most of southern and eastern Africa, and parts of Central Africa.

Are Lions Threatened?

Yes, lions are threatened. African lions are considered vulnerable and Asian lions are endangered. Their habitat is decreasing mostly due to the negative influence of human expansion and conflicts with humans.

Lions are threatened, mainly by the negative influence that human activities have on their habitat. They suffer habitat loss, prey depletion, and regularly enter direct conflicts with expanding humans.

The African lion is considered vulnerable and its population is continuously decreasing. The Asian lion is endangered with only about 350 animals alive. The Asian lion population is stable, but due to isolation, they suffer from reduced genetic diversity.[8]


Lions don’t actually live in the jungle, they avoid closed-canopy forests. They live in a variety of environments from grasslands, savannahs, and open forests, to deserts and wetlands. They used to have a huge range covering most of Africa, southwestern Asia and India, and southeastern Europe. Today their range is greatly reduced, and they are closer and closer to being extinct.

About Codrin Frunzete

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