360-DEGREE LIVES: The lion is king of everything it watches over, whether in the wild or in captivity

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of videos offering an up-close perspective on the animal kingdom. A special 360-degree video camera system has been installed in zoos and other facilities to show how animals see their world as they interact.

Also visit our special LIVES IN 360 DEGREES page (http://t.asahi.com/360lives), where you can watch all previous videos.

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Lions are called the king of the jungle for good reason. With their fearsome appearance and physical strength, adults have virtually no natural predators.

Also known as the king of beasts, lions don’t live in the jungle. They mostly inhabit African savannahs or grasslands with scattered trees.

Lions are the second largest among the big cats after tigers. Adult males, which sport a golden mane, sometimes weigh more than 250 kilograms.

Three African lions are kept for display at Tobu Zoo in Miyashiro, Saitama Prefecture.

A camera was set up on a wooden platform in the exhibition area, surrounded by pieces of raw horse flesh.

A male lion emerged as the door opened. But contrary to expectations, he walked towards the camera instead of munching on the meal that was waiting for him.

When a lioness entered about 15 seconds later, the male chased her away and devoured the meat.

The lioness ran her tongue over the camera platform, biting the lens filter and pulling it away from the camera.

Later, the lioness bit into a raw chicken hanging over the enclosure and ate it on camera.

He started to bite the camera again, pulling the device off the rig.

While tigers and other ferocious animals have featured in this series, this was the first time the filter and camera were seen being forcibly ripped off.

Lions are the only cat species that form groups, called prides, in the wild, according to zoo attendant Kenta Kitahama.

A typical pride consists of one to six males and four to 12 related females and their young.

Females basically hunt and raise cubs together in a group.

The dominant male is responsible for protecting the pride of spotted hyenas and other males trying to build muscle.

If he fails to protect the pride, the alpha male is either killed or forced to become a nomad. Even if successful, the will still be replaced by a younger, more powerful rival in two to three years, Kitahama said.

The first goal of any new leader is to kill his predecessor’s cubs to trick the lioness into becoming sexually active and having new cubs.

Threatened by shrinking habitat that reduces their chances of finding prey, lions are listed as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.

“Humans are animals’ worst enemy,” Kitahama said. “It is we who can destroy them. But it is also us who can bring them back.

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This is the latest installment in the 360-Degree Lives series, which began in 2016.

Kenta Kitahama, an attendant at Tobu Zoo in Miyashiro, Saitama Prefecture, talks about African lions. (Video by Toshiyuki Takeya)

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