Cape Lion – It Was Very Good

Cape Lion
Only known photo of a live Cape Lion, in Jardin des Plantes, Paris, 1860

Cape Lion (Panthera leo melanochaitus)

The Cape Lion was native to the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of the African continent. It is believed the lion was the largest and heaviest of the sub-Saharan lions. The Cape Lion was recognizable by it thick black mane and black tipped ears. The species was especially noted for its “luxuriant and extensive manes.”

Cape Lion
Drawing of a Cape Lion by Rembrandt, 1650

The Cape Lion, unlike most other extinct big cats, was hunted to extinction. Unlike other species that slowly driven extinct by habitat loss or removal of their prey. The last known adult was killed in South Africa in 1858.  A juvenile was captured by an explorer a couple of decades later but died in captivity shortly thereafter.

In 2000, South African zoo director John Spence believed he had located a pair of the Lion in captivity. The putative Cape Lions were living at the Novosibirsk Zoo in Russia.  Spence announced plans to perform us genetic testing to determine if the lions truly were Cape Lions. If so, a captive breeding program would be implemented with the hopes of bringing the species back from extinction.

Unfortunately, Spence died in 2010 and the Novosibirsk Zoo closed a couple of years later.

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Author: Jonathon

Doesn’t mix well with polite company; his two favorite topics being politics and religion. Would rather be out cycling, swimming, running, or camping. Misspent his youth reading genre-fiction; today, he is making up for it by reading large quantities of non-fiction literature. The fact that truth, in every way, is more fascinating than fiction still tickles him.

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