The body of a single Sparta lioness was found a few days ago. It can now be confirmed that she is indeed the mother of the two 7-8 month old cubs. This was tragic news for the much loved pride. The question on everyone’s minds was, or rather still is, what will happen to the two cubs that she left behind?
The day after we discovered her body, the two cubs were found alive and well. They met up with the remaining four Sparta females later on that morning. When I heard the news called in on the radio I breathed a sigh of relief! At least they would now have a chance at survival… or would they?
Half an hour later and the radio crackled to life. The update was confusing and heartbreaking: “the 2 cubs are now moving away from the lionesses”…and so they kept going, walking slowly away! It was as if they had smelt that their mother was not there and were now heading off to find her. They were followed at a distance by a ranger in a vehicle. They crossed further east off of Londolozi. That was nearly a week ago. They have not been seen since.
Nearly every day since this event we have managed to find the four Sparta females, often in the company of the new three cubs, but not a single track to suggest the other two ‘older’ cubs are alive.
Now, those of you who are passionate followers of the blog, the Londolozi wildlife and in particular the lion dynamics, will remember the incredible story of the 5 month old lion cub that survived 5 weeks alone! It is this incident which still provides me with some hope that these two little females may still be alive.
Time will tell whether this is the case, I fear though that with marauding hyenas and leopards around, these two are negotiating through troubled waters. The one positive is that they are in the heart of Majingilane territory so should not encounter another male lion.
The question which itches away at my mind is why on earth, when they were with the remainder of the pride, did they make the decision to go off on their own? In turning their backs on their aunts and grandmother were they deciding to give up on life? One must remember that the previous day the lionesses had all sniffed at the carcaass of the dead lioness. Is it not logical to think that these lionesses would have ‘told’ the surviving daughters the fate of their mother. Or is this logic that I speak of confined to humans? Am I reading too much into this? My take on this issue is that the lionesses all have their own personal agendas to take care of, either in the form of cubs or expectant cubs. They possibly could not afford to spend the time, effort and resources to support youngsters that are not their own.
But surely then this argument would have resulted in the adults moving away from the cubs and not visa versa, as was the case? Surely they would have looked at these two 7-8 month olds as useful additions to the pride structure and future hunting team-mates? Maybe, they were just too young! Maybe the chances of survival, at this time, were too slim.
These are questions we do not know the answers to. We don’t even know for sure what the outcome for this chapter will be. Perhaps they will throw yet another curve ball and show up unscathed from their ordeal. At least this time their are two of them! I do, however, find it fascinating to watch yet another wondrous example of the lives of lions.
I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions as to why these two cubs walked away from the pride on that day. Add to the comments and lets get some educated discussion going on the possible dynamic that is unfolding out here.
Written and photographed by Adam Bannister