There are still no new developments with the lion saga here at Sabi Sabi. The main players seem to be buying time at the moment as there has been no further interaction since the last blog was posted. Throughout all of the recent happenings, the Southern Pride females have kept to themselves, no doubt trying to distance themselves from the potential chaos that looms over their territory. The pride is still split into two groups from the last information we have had, with 4 females, Floppy Ear and her 2 cubs laying low somewhere and 2 females, 6 subs and 2 cubs in the north. The other night, we found the group of 10 sleeping through the heat of the day but come nightfall, they gave us a window to their world and of the stress that they must also be under.
Prior to mobilising for the evening’s activities, lions will usually spend some time grooming one another, an act always thought to reaffirm bonds between such a close knit community. Tonight however, their grooming continued for about an hour before moving off into the darkness. As some of our avid and knowledgeable fans on the Facebook page have also noticed, this increased grooming behaviour has undoubtedly been caused by the ominous presence of Solo and the Eyrefield male. With 4 young males and 2 cubs in tow, this portion of the Southern Pride must be on constant tender-hooks. The 2 cubs would be in mortal danger if found and the sub-adult males would surely be chased off and forced to fend for themselves prematurely.
The best way to calm a situation down is to comfort one another and reassure the members of the pride that their unity is still intact. Their collective consciousness seems to understand this and, led by the 2 mature females, all precautions are being taken to unify the pride during this stressful time. From our standpoint, it gave us a wonderful opportunity to see an often overlooked side of these magnificent creatures. When people think of lions, it usually conjures up images of ferocious, muscle bound hunters that will stop at nothing to secure their next meal. Whilst this is undoubtedly true, one must not forget that they are parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters, for whom the social bond that binds them is imperative for their continued success.
As we watched the pride lick and groom one another, we were presented with a beautiful picture of these powerful animals engaging in such tender activities. Only they will know exactly what message is being conveyed but I believe it to be one of solidarity and emotional support. Raising and protecting a family, or at least successfully passing on one’s genetics, is the most important act in all animals’ existence. It is why the fight for territories and females, why they hunt for food and why they defend those interests with their life. To see this behaviour unfolding in front of our eyes was a moving experience for us all and helped to paint the bigger picture, that we must not be too insular in our thinking and to realise that more goes on behind the scenes that we are privy to or understand. What will become of the Southern Pride still remains to be seen but it is not a question of ‘if’, but ‘when’. The males will be forced to leave within the next 6-9 months regardless of Solo and the Eyrefield male’s involvement. It is nature’s design and it is a tried and tested method that has allowed animals such as lions to avoid pitfalls, in evolutionary terms, such as inbreeding and genetic dilution.
We have all been so wrapped up in the males’ battles that we have forgotten about the females and their ongoing investment in the lives of their offspring but whatever happens, I have no doubt that those 4 young males will succeed. Having been taught by some of the best in the business, wherever they end up it is safe to assume that the genetic line of the Southern Pride has a huge role to play in the lion dynamics of the entire Sabi Sand Game Reserve.