small responsibilities of a lioness

A mother protecting her little ones is known as a force to be reckoned with and this is exactly what I, Louis my tracker, and our guests were reminded of during one of our evening safari game drives.

Finding lions on a safari is always a rewarding experience and even more so if there are cubs involved. We are fortunate to have five new lion cubs on the reserve and they are now big enough for the mother to feel confident to move them around. With this in mind I kept my ear close to the radio listening to the encounters the other rangers were experiencing with the mother and her cubs.

Planning our safari strategy, Louis and I decided to stay in the southern section of Sabi Sabi where the female and her cubs were last seen. Driving the roads we had planned, scanning for tracks or any other sign of her presence, we were excited to finally find fresh spoor of the lioness. At this point in time the tracks indicated to us that she was alone. Her tracks were not heading in any specific direction and after following them for a while we soon realised that we were chasing our tails. During the suspense of tracking the lioness, we had the unexpected pleasure of finding a small breeding herd of elephants browsing their way through a thicket of Magic Guarri trees. It's like a breath of fresh air to observe an elephant herd feeding and the little ones playing with one another.

Lioness and cubs at Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve

It was a big surprise to all of us on the safari game drive vehicle that it was one of the guests that initially spotted the lioness not too far behind a large female elephant. A wave of anxiety filled the air and it wasn't long before questions of concern about the safety of the lioness and her cubs were popping up. We could immediately see the lionesses motherly instinct activated when she noticed the danger from the nearby elephants. She instinctively identified one of the cubs lagging behind, picked him up in her mouth and quietly guided the other four cubs away from the danger of the herd. She went unnoticed until one of the older elephant cows noticed her disappearing into the riverbed. This elephant alerted the rest of the herd with a series of overwhelming trumpets that made the hair on our necks rise. Luckily the lioness and her cubs were out of harm's way and both we and the elephants could take a deep breath and relax.

During all of this commotion we lost sight of the lion family and decided to head to the riverbed to try and establish in which direction they were heading. Vegetation surrounding a riverbed is always thick and it took some careful driving to get close. All of our questions were answered when Louis spotted the lioness lying down in the riverbed next to a large kudu bull she had recently killed. After making the kill she had collected her cubs from their hiding place and travelled back with them, through possible danger, and fortunately reached her destination safely.

An enormous amount of care and responsibility goes into taking care of those who can't care for themselves - a great example being the way this lioness is taking care of her cubs.

by: jo machaba - earth lodge ranger

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