What a manic last few weeks, the lodges have been packed and the bush has been pumping. The chill of winter has put its icy grip over the bush and the bush has all but dried out. The trees are losing their leaves and the herbivores are starting to loose condition. This all bodes very well for the new additions to the Southern Pride as they have been enjoying the bounty of buffalo that have been moving on and off of the reserve.
Over the last 2 weeks the lions have managed to pull down 4 buffalo and have been feasting to the point of bursting. After pulling down the first of the four they were sitting digesting their meal at a waterhole 150 metres from the kill when another buffalo bull decided to walk right into them offering them another substantial meal.
Two of the cubs have been joining the feasts and the other cubs are still being hidden away in their den sites for the moment but will surely be brought out to meet the rest of the pride with the next few weeks.
Some of the most outstanding times that I have been with the cubs were after the first and second buffalos were killed. On the first occasion we arrived at the kill towards the end of our game drive, all the vehicles had left and we were left in solitude with the pride. The cubs were fat and round; bellies filled with the nutritious meat of the buffalo and were in high spirits. They ran around tackling one another before mom decided to take them for a drink. What a sighting as we watched the little ones line up next to mom and enjoy a refreshing dose of water to quench their thirst. Their reflections danced on the water as their lapping tongues sent ripples across the dam. They slowly moved around exploring the water’s edge, completely oblivious to the possibility of a crocodile waiting for one of them to get close. Fortunately though there was no threat in this particular water source.
As mom decided to head back towards the rest of the pride, she decided to give one of the little ones a lift and gently placed her cub in her deadly jaws. The instant reaction of the cub was to go limp and it appeared as if she were carrying a dead body. The other cub bounded along behind mom yelping as if to say “what about me mom?”
With two buffalo eaten in quick succession and the Kruger males having proved their abilities as fathers, the older females fell into oestrus and love filled the air. The sounds of lions mating, as the females growled at the males and the males submissively squealed as they mated, filled the cold air and the guest were amazed at their luck to be able to see such interaction at close quarters. Three of the females eventually mated with the two males and the oldest female with the floppy ear ended up mating with both males.
One night on our way back from a bush braai (barbeque out in the bush under the African stars) we stopped to watch one of the mating pairs. As we sat waiting for the next session, the pride decided to join. As we sat watching the interaction, one of the females approached the mating couple and behind her waddled the two 7-week-old cubs. We switched off our lights and were about leave so as not to put pressure on the little ones when one of the females started to roar. In the pitch black with the stars sparkling overhead, 16 lions, including the tiny cubs, began to send a message to everyone within earshot. What a sound! Our chests rattled as the roars resounded over the bush. As the male finished the last of his roar, the silence was deafening! Our hearts were racing as the adrenalin pumped through our bodies, the guests sat silently in the dark wondering if the lions were trying to chase us away but were too afraid to ask. Eventually once we left they asked why they had been doing it and I told them that it was just to reinforce their dominance over the territory and let all the other lions around know not to come anywhere near!
It is scary to think that the pride is now 19 strong with one of the female’s cubs unaccounted for, plus the potential addition of new cubs in the next 4 months from the 3 females that have just mated! This is going to be a force to be reckoned with and the biggest pride in the Sabi Sands looks to be invincible at the moment.