The animals on the cover of Java & XML, Third Edition, are lions (Panthera leo).
These great cats differ from other solitary felines in that they form family groups,
called prides. Prides consist of as many as 30 to 40 lions, most of whom are females
and their offspring. The life span of a lion is approximately 10 to 14 years (quite a bit
more if in captivity). Full grown males can grow up to 10 feet in length; the only cat
larger is the tiger. The lion's eye is particularly sensitive to movement, and it can
detect the movement of its prey from a great distance. Special receptor cells in the
cat's eye give it exceptional night vision.
Lions live in eastern and southern Africa, although some subspecies of the African
lion are endangered. The Asiatic lion (P.l. persica) once lived throughout India, the
Middle East, and Southern Asia. Today, with conservation efforts, its population still
numbers only approximately 359 animals, which can be found in the Gir Forest
National Park in Gujarat in western India. The Barbary and Cape lions are extinct.
Lions are carnivores and prey on large herd animals. They are at the apex of the food
chain, the top predator of their environment. The females are the hunters, while the
males' role is to protect the pride from other aggressive males. Lions are not as fast as
other big cats, such as the cheetah. As a result, they concentrate on heavier, less agile
animals, and ambush their prey by driving them toward concealed members of the
hunting group. They use coordinated, cooperative techniques that enable the group
to hunt with more success than an individual could. African lions eat wildebeest,
zebra, antelope, gazelle, impala, and giraffe.