We follow with interest the life of the two motherless Sparta Pride cubs. These two female cubs, born around October/November 2011, lost their mother at the end of April 2012. We believe that she lost her life due to internal injuries sustained through a fall from a tree during an altercation with a female leopard. This unexpected death was documented in a previous blog post.
Since the death of the mother, over a month ago, we have been watching them carefully to see how things would shape out for them and the remainder of the Sparta Pride. The Sparta Pride currently sits at four lionesses, one of which has three small cubs, and then these two orphans.
It appears, for the time being at least, that these to orphans are being ‘looked after’ by the still lactating mother. Just the other day the Londolozi trackers managed to find the five cubs (the two orphans and the three that were born in early March) on a sandy beach in the middle of the Sand River. Together with the five youngsters, was the mother of the March litter. Ranger, Sean Carter, managed to capture some footage of the orphans actually suckling from this lioness. Is it possible that she will now take on the role as ‘surrogate’ mother and continue to look after these two? A brave act if you consider that it means she now has five bellies, in addition to her own, to feed. Will the pride as a whole put in the extra effort to keep these two alive?
So, the orphans have made it for over a month now without a mother and they continue to survive against the odds, although there is no doubt that they have lost physical condition .The fact that they are both females adds to the drama! If they are able to stick together and scrounge a living for the next few months, then they may form a formidable bond that will be a crucial asset to the Sparta Pride team.
Good news too is that the Majingilane males have been observed with these orphans and they seem to be affectionate towards them. The biggest challenge for these two young lionesses is going to be in acquiring food. They will undoubtedly be bullied off kills and are still too young to hunt for themselves.
I’m looking forward to seeing if these females start to hunt earlier on in their lives then a ‘normal’ lioness may do. Normally one could expect a lioness to start assisting in kills from an age of 18 – 24 months. Maybe, just maybe, these females are destined for greatness and will mature in rapid time…their lives may depend on it!
Written by Adam Bannister
Filmed by Sean Carter and Adam Bannister