This is a story so unbelievable that only Nature could have the creativity and courage to let it play out. This is a story that shows the fighting spirit, resilience and the complexity of Africa’s most revered mammal…the Lion.
The star of the show is a member of the Tsalala Pride. This time, however, the lead is played not by one of the three tough pride lionesses but rather by a male lion cub born on the 29th May 2011. Having survived a buffalo stampede which claimed the lives of his two brothers; he together with his sister managed to keep afloat in turbulent times. A tipping point would soon follow which would really test the pride…
The recent post entitled ‘Hyena bites Lioness’s Tail off‘ details how the Tsalala Pride were ambushed and attacked by a clan of hyena whilst in the middle of enjoying a zebra carcass…
“One of the smaller cubs was missing and the mother had been brutally wounded. It looked painful as her back left leg was very obviously bitten and still oozing blood. The big damage however came in the form of her backside…her tail had been bitten and ripped off and it looked terrible. She lay motionless in the shade…the pride was in tatters.“
The recovery process of the injured lioness has been slow but with each day you can see her gaining in strength and power…she has had the continual support of the pride, which has made this healing process all the more bearable. The cub that disappeared that night was written off by everyone. At first there were one or two comments about maybe it having gotten separated and lost in all the commotion but when after 5,6,7…10 days there had still been no sign of the cub, it was assumed dead. So certain were we that we even wrote a piece on the current composition of the Tsalala Pride leaving the ‘missing cub‘ out completely. At that stage the Tsalala Pride numbered eight (Original Tailless, New Tailless, Lioness, 4 older cubs and the sole surviving youngest cub).
In the late afternoon of the 12th November Richard Ferrier was driving around Weaver’s Nest Road when he saw the impossible. Drinking out of the muddy waters of the pan was the ‘missing cub‘. He had been alone for ten days and was still alive! Richard followed the cub at a distance and was led back to the zebra kill site and the spot where we think the incident and mauling of his mother had happened on the 2nd November.
The ‘missing cub‘ had come back from the dead and silenced all of us. There was a strange euphoria amongst the team, in that we were witnessing first hand an epic battle for survival. We had no clue how at 5 months, this young cub was able to feed and look after himself in one of the most predator rich environments around.
When the one month mark hit on the 2nd December and he was still alone we all began questioning what exactly was happening. Had he made a conscience decision to ‘go it alone’ , did his mother in her current state not want to take on another burden or had they simply just been missing each other each night as the pride moved around their hunting grounds and he wandered through the long grass scuttling after mice and lizards in silence?
Then came another curve ball…an incident one evening in the north resulted in one of the four older cubs being separated from the Tsalala Pride. For the next couple of days we watched in disbelief as it looked like the pride now numbered seven. But after the ‘missing cub‘ had come back to life we were certainly not going to write off the 10 month old. It was this 10 month old individual who, in fact, may just have saved the day. In an attempt to reconnect with the pride he patrolled Londolozi searching for them. In his wanderings he stumbled upon the ‘missing cub‘. He had managed to find the needle in the haystack. Now it was just a matter of finding the rest of the family. He managed this in a day…
Although no one witnessed the actual reunion one can only imagine the emotions when the cub realised it’s days of going solo were over, the emotion the injured lioness must have felt when she saw, smelt and licked her young cub.
The truth is truly stranger than fiction could ever be. This young cub survived out in the wild for 5 weeks and is now back with the pride. We hope that all the drama is over but we still watch with interest to see if his weak physical condition improves. If he does manage to pull through and survive one thing is for certain…this young male is going to make for one special lion. I look forward to writing about his life as he moves forward as yet another integral thread in the ‘Tsalala Pride’s Epic Story’.
I hope this little highlights package gives you a hint of the emotional rollercaster we have gone through in the last 5 weeks. Let me know your thoughts on this remarkable story…
Written by Adam Bannister
Photographs by Talley Smith