With the inevitable demise of the Majingilane male lion coalition the Birmingham male lions have been showcasing their strength, dominance and power through the eastern sections of Londolozi. Their deep, guttural roars fill the cool misty mornings and star-lit night sky as winter begins to set in. They have been gifted a prime area of the Sabi Sands and with regular roars, scent marking and mating activity, they are claiming it as their own.

It’s becoming a regular occurrence that when one or even all four of these male lions are found, there is bound to be an Ntsevu lioness in their vicinity, and mating bouts have been going on for months now. Females often switching to different males to secure impregnation and a future continuation of their genes. All of us rangers have been waiting in anticipation as to when a set of cubs will be discovered and the obvious signs of a lactating female and fresh suckle marks will solidify this and make it evident that lion cubs are around.

Birmingham, Ntsevu, mating - AJ 2018

A Birmingham male lion dismounts one of the Ntsevu female lions. A dismount like this one is often aggressive in behavior, this can be due to the barbed penis of the male lion which aids in the release of eggs for fertilization. Mating bouts can last up to four days with regular mating intervals, often every few minutes. Lionesses require regular mating to allow for induced ovulation.

Ranger James Souchon, guests and I were incredibly lucky to have such an experience. This last week we discovered a single Birmingham male lion and Ntsevu lioness. Both were showing signs of interest in mating and when they settled up in an open clearing the snorting of impalas alerted us.
The impala weren’t fixated on the pair however; their attention was focused in the opposite direction. Out of nowhere a second lioness appeared. Her behaviour was strange and she showed aggression to the mating pair. A short while later it became evident that she had suckle marks. She had clearly given birth but where was she hiding her cubs?
She seemed agitated and started moving back in the direction she had come from. The other lions followed. Were we going to see cubs? Was she leading us to a possible den site? Our confusion about her behaviour mounted and we puzzled over what was happening. She lay up every few hundred meters, constantly alert of her surroundings, and continued to show aggression to the other lions seeming to disallow them from getting too close to her. Again she got to her feet and proceeded in the direction she came from and the others followed. The morning sun began warming the land around us and the heat of the day turned us back towards camp.

Later that afternoon we were determined to conclude the story and satisfy all of our curiosities. We returned to where we had left thew lioness. There lay a single male and female lion yet no sign of the lactating female. We ventured towards a nearby drainage line with thick vegetation (an ideal spot to hide cubs).
James, trackers Rich Mtabine, Lucky Shabangu and me disembarked our vehicles and proceeded to follow the tracks.

Tracks

Following lion or any predator tracks into thick vegetation is something that should be done in absolute silence and with utmost care, as visibility is obviously severely limited.
On edge, we crept along, when suddenly a pair of francolins burst from the brush, screeching in panic. Needless to say we got the fright of our lives, and continued on at a snail’s. Seconds later, out of the very same bush from which the francolins had erupted came the growls of the Ntsevu lioness we had been following. We immediately retreated, giving her space and adhering to her obvious warning of not to come closer. Smiles beamed from ear to ear as we assumed she was guarding cubs.

Both my and James’ guests all climbed into one vehicle as not to impact the thick vegetation and minimize our disturbance to her safe haven and protection of cubs.
As we approached where the growls came from, there we saw three tiny cubs crawling around. They seemed totally unaware of our presence. What an incredible discovery! We were all in awe at what we were witnessing. The mother returned a few minutes later and began suckling the three young cubs. As the light dimmed and our view of the mother and three cubs was very limited we decided to make our way home and let her be in peace.
A wonderful conclusion to the day’s story and possibly a start of a new lion legacy. We will see what the next few days, weeks, months or years have to hold. Will they survive? Will they make it to adulthood? Will they carry forth the genes of the Birmingham male lions?

Unfortunately due to very limited view we weren’t able to capture any photographs of the cubs and shortly after discovery they crawled deeper into the thick vegetation. An ideal place to hide from any potential threat.

Birmingham, Ntsevu - AJ 2018

A true meaning of “chasing tail”. A Birmingham male lion follows one of the Ntsevu females. A pair such as this one will isolate themselves from the pride during a mating bout. During this time they will almost solely focus on mating and not pay much attention to hunting.

Ntsevu cubs - AJ 2018

Two previous cubs from the Ntsevu pride practice their stalking and chasing. This playful behaviour is vital for learning the art of the hunt. Anywhere from one to two months of age, lion cubs will be introduced to the pride. Before then the mother will hide them in dense vegetation or a rocky outcrop known as a den site. She will often return to such den site to suckle the cubs. With a low percentage survival rate, unfortunately a week later these cubs weren’t ever to be seen again.

Birmingham, yawn - AJ 2018

A yawn stretches muscles and symbolizes the start of an evening patrol. This Birmingham male ventured further west into territory of the unknown, often scent marking and calling every few hundred meters advertising his presence.

About the Author

Alex Jordan

Field Guide

Born in Cape Town, Alex grew up on a family wine estate in Stellenbosch. Spending much of his young life outdoors, Alex went on many a holiday into Southern Africa’s national parks and wild areas. After finishing high school, he completed a number ...

View Alex's profile

12 Comments

on A New Beginning: New Lion Cubs Discovered

Join the conversationJoin the conversation

Marinda Drake

This is amazing news. The previous litters of the Ntsevu pride did not survive?

Gemma Kemps

Can the Birmingham Boys reign over more than one pride? There is the Nkumhuma pride to the north. What coalition will try to take on these lioness?

Bright Night

Hi Gemma, it looks like the 3 young N.Avoca boys are claiming stake in Djuma.

John Marlatt

What a great experience! Looking forward to seeing pictures of the cubs…

Carol Sturgeon

Wow, and Wow! How exciting! Awesome re-enactment of what happened !!! So excited! I hope they are the lucky ones that make it to adulthood!!!!

Denise Vouri

How fantastic that you spotted the newest members of the Ntsevu female pride. I know survival is difficult in the first few months so hoping these little ones will make it. I’m looking forward to seeing pictures when you spot them again.

Phil Schultz

Excellent news! May they stay safe. Possibly they will be old enough for me to see them when I get to Londolozi in a little over three weeks. Curious if any leopard cubs have been seen lately. Seems like I remember in the past couple of months suspicion that a female was hiding cubs while another lost hers

Ian Hall

Looking forward to the follow up stories

Mj Bradley

Thank you for the update on the Birminghams. Glad they are doing well and establishing their territory.. I hope they return North sometime for the safety of the other 1.5 yr old cubs with the Nkuhuma Pride.. the last two Photos of a male are Nhenha.. he has and = sign on the right side of his nose.

Wendy Hawkins

Awesome, look forward to hearing more & seeing the pictures. Thank you Alex

Bright Night

What a great post Alex, I have to confess I was biting my nails as you were talking of your bush walk, i felt like I was there with you. That’s great writing!!
I look forward to pictures of the newest members in the pride as soon as mum allows. Watching Tinyo as a patient, hands on father ( in lion terms of course) has to be one of the sweetest things, aside from his tree climbing skills, lol.

Callum Evans

New life for Londolozi’s lions, that is just amazing!! These could very well be the offspring of the Birminghams, unless any other maless have been on the reserve within the last three months?

Connect with Londolozi

Follow Us

Sign up for our Newsletters

One moment...
+
Add Profile