Even before arriving at Sabi Sabi I had the privilege of following the life of the lions that I would soon call my resident pride. For the last year here at Sabi Sabi I have got to know these cats intimately as their territory is almost exclusively on our reserve. The pride started out with two dominant males and four adult females that sired eleven cubs. Due to competition between the little ones two of them were just not strong enough and ended up passing away.
The nine remaining cubs were comprised of five males and four females. About six months ago the last of the two males died which left the pride without any defined territory.
Our dominant female had realised that the males were on their way out and had already been trying to entice new males into the area to take control of the pride. It took a while before we had the solidity of new males but by the same token this threw the pride dynamics into chaos as the new males were chasing away the five now adolescent males. The three males that were now in charge of our pride now had to figure out who was going to get the honours of mating with the females, who with the confidence that they had pride males to look after the territory and any new cubs fell into oestrus one after the other. It was then just a waiting game before the reserve was host to some new lions…
The adolescent males have since left and moved into the Kruger National Park where they were seen with one of their sisters. All the other females have remained together making up a pride consisting of three dominant males and seven females.
Just over three months later we noticed that our dominant female had peeled off from the normal everyday activities of the pride and we figured she had gone off to have her cubs. It would be another six weeks before we got our first look at the little ones. These cubs are now almost 4 months old
She was the first of what appears to be four females to have cubs. The next female chose the river in front of little bush camp as the perfect place to have her cubs and den whilst they were small. We regularly saw her heading into the river and hanging around the area but with the cubs so small we didn’t dare find them on foot for fear of what their mother may do to us. Eventually we got our first look at the proud mother carrying her little ones from one den site to a new site. We saw that she had three cubs that were maybe four weeks old.
This is now where things get a little sketchy….we haven’t seen the cubs since that first sighting and it is thought they might have been killed by a our dominant male leopard but that still needs to be confirmed. We soon after found another female with five cubs and there is alot of debate as to whether or not this is the same female that was around little bush camp and maybe she had already moved two of the cubs before we found her. These five little ones are now about 8 weeks old.
The most recent additions were found yesterday afternoon and are no more than 5 or 6 weeks old. The mother of 2 went to go fetch her cubs to give them some milk after having enjoyed a nice meal. I am still waiting patiently to photograph these new cubs but I am sure I willhave the opportunity within the next week or two.
So all these wonderful new additions mean that we have three pride males, seven females and nine cubs, which could possibly be twelve cubs. The females are going to have a tough time seeing all of these to adulthood as there are a lot of mouths to feed but it will be amazing to see how they progress.