Sabi Sabi yesterday, today, tomorrow

southern pride surrogates

by Richard de Gouveia on July 27, 2012

With the Southern Pride numbers growing and the search for food for the new mouths taking them far and wide, the pride has started setting up a baby sitting roster for the little ones. On the last few occasions with the little ones we have noticed how the mothers are rotating duties of looking after the cubs.

southern pride at sabi sabi

Michell had a fantastic sighting of the cubs playing in the trees whilst the female with the injured leg slept close by, popping her head up from time to time to ensure that they were still ok.

cub in tree at sabi sabi private game reserve

southern pride cub

southern pride cubs

On a number of occasions that I have had the opportunity to see the little ones, they have been with two different females, just showing how well the pride works together in order to ensure that the cubs will survive this very tough time in their lives. The mortality rate in lion cubs is about the same as that of leopards and can be as high as 60%. The Southern Pride though has an excellent record in raising their cubs to adulthood, with the first litter I had the pleasure of meeting having 9 out of 11 survive and in the last litter before these little cuties, 6 out of 12 survived. I have to put this down to the excellent care the mothers give as well as the size of the pride.

southern pride cubs

southern pride at sabi sabi private game reserve

If the pride had not been as big as they were when the Kruger males took charge, none of the previous cubs would have survived. This batch of cubs is fast approaching 3 months old and are looking great. Their little bellies bulging after feeding on the elephant carcass left them in a playful mood, but still looking for more milk from mom.


southern pride at sabi sabi private game reserve

Every time one of the surrogates lay with her nipples exposed, the 5 cubs would dive in to find a nipple, fighting with one another for a bit more milk. I have noticed though that when the supply of food has been short for the pride, that the mother looking after the cubs will only allow her little ones the opportunity to get some milk and will growl and bite her sisters cubs, but when there is a time of plenty, the mothers will allow any of the cubs an opportunity to feed.

Southern pride at sabi sabi

It has also been amazing to see the distances the cubs are moving with the pride. The females are just stashing the little ones in den sites closer to their positions and then fetching them once dinner has been caught. I estimate that the cubs must have walked more than 40 kilometres in the last week which is a huge feat for those little legs. Over the last week we have seen all seven cubs and even though only 5 have been seen on the last few occasions, I feel confident that the other 2 are alive and well. It excites me to no end at the prospect of watching another Southern Pride litter make it to maturity and the young males conquering more of the Sabi Sands!

southern pride at sabi sabi

by: Richard de Gouveia (Little Bush Camp ranger)

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

syl July 27, 2012 at 11:32 am

Thanks for a wonderful morning treat. :)


ranger rich August 1, 2012 at 4:23 pm

As always Syl it is a pleasure


terry July 27, 2012 at 9:04 pm

Thanks so much Richard. These little cubs are adorable. Loved the video, can’t wait to see more!


ranger rich August 1, 2012 at 4:25 pm

Aren’t they just the cutest! Thanks for the comment Terry!


walker July 30, 2012 at 12:47 am

Beautiful video. If the lone female comes up against hyenas, would the cubs be in trouble?

Has the Kruger male with the limp been seen. Hope he is ok, else with just one male, it would be tough to defend themselves?


ranger rich August 1, 2012 at 4:29 pm

Walker, they most definitely would be in trouble! Hyenas will eat anything given the opportunity! With rregards to KNP male, he has still not been seen! The pride is pretty strong even without males due to the fact that they have strength in numbers. The fact that they kept 50 percent of the last litter alive even with a pride take over is testament to that!


sheila July 30, 2012 at 8:40 pm

What a wonderful blog. I love listening to the complaints and other growls of the cubs. It’s so comical to see them, with their bellies filled beyond capacity, fighting over nipples for more milk. Thank you, Richard, for another awesome blog with so many photos too.


ranger rich August 2, 2012 at 7:08 am

Always a pleasure Sheila! So glad that you enjoyed it!


paul August 2, 2012 at 1:56 pm

How long have the KNP male with the limp not been seen?


thelma aleman August 6, 2012 at 9:58 pm



mark steinberg August 9, 2012 at 9:33 pm

Richard, it is always wonderful to read what you write and to see the videos. Glad to be able to keep tabs on the strength of the Southern Pride and that this new litter seems so healthy and doing well. Thanks always for the share.


ranger rich August 10, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Thank you Mark!!


heather chalmers August 10, 2012 at 6:32 pm

Oh, the bliss! As always, I am in awe and am most grateful for the fine update and glorious photos! Long live the Southern Pride!


frik steinberg August 21, 2012 at 6:06 am

Hi Richard ,Very interesting article, nice pics & video. The high survival rate of the Southern Pride cubs is extraordinary in the wild, shows what good ” mother love” and team work can do. Keep up the good work with the blog Richard


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