It was a morning which started early, there was a light drizzle and anticipation in the air about what the day would bring.
“Stop” said my tracker Petro with his characteristic hand gesture. We climbed out of the vehicle to inspect the tracks in the wet soil – lion tracks! I deferred to his extensive knowledge on tracks – “How many do you think?” His response was exactly what I wanted to hear, ”Maningi” – the local word for “many”! We set about tracking them and it didn’t take long before we found them and to our surprise, there were more than we initially thought from the tracks. There was the majority of the Southern Pride in all its glory – a total of 12 partly made up of the Kruger male, sub adult males and females, the females and their two adorable cubs.
It was fantastic to see the majority of them back together again as they had spent some time apart. This time apart provide great viewing as the cats – the only social cats in the world – set about reaffirming family bonds by head rubbing and the occasional ”tackle my brother” game.
With the young male cubs looking up to their older siblings, they set about playing by trying to stalk, hunt and pounce on the much stronger sub adults and adults, but when you are that age, nothing is too big to take on.
Well maybe sometimes, things can be a little big. The attention was taken by an elephant bull who slowly ambled past with all their heads raised to witness this giant grey mass moving through the vegetation.
It was amazing to see this relaxed attitude, unbeknown to them, in other parts of our reserve Solo and Eyrefield were found along with another male who had been mating with the grandmother of the Southern Pride – Floppy Ear. This type of behaviour has always interested me as the Southern Pride females have consistently been mating with all of the nomadic males who start to move in on the Kruger male’s territory. Is this the art of distraction to safeguard the sub adult males and cubs from these challengers? If so this would seem like an act of pure genius as it has seemed to work up until now.
The Kruger male is old and wise and he doesn’t seem to go out on territorial patrol too much and has been staying with two of the females and the cubs. The question I will leave you with – is this a male who realises he is under threat and relying on his females for protection? Or is it the ultimate form of fatherly protection? The answer is for you to decide.