Most of you will be aware that the legendary Tailless Female from the Tsalala Pride has a cub, but I’m not sure if enough airtime has been given to this little one. It is after all, the result of an incredible tale of circumstances and events.
I have just returned from leave delighted to find out that it’s still alive. I need to wind back the clock and give you the highlights package of this little treasure. It gives you a great idea about how well her mother has been hiding her, and just how special a sighting of this individual is.
1st August 2012
We managed to find the Tailless Female (the granny) lying beside a natural pool of water at an area we call Marthly Pools. We sit with her for ages until she decides to get up. Prior to this sighting she had not been seen for close on 3 weeks. As soon as she gets up we see that her belly looks full, her teats look swollen and she heads straight up a nearby koppie (rocky outcrop). It is too dark for us to see so we all leave.
2nd August 2012
Super excited about the possibility of her having cubs I brief my guests about our objective today and we head straight back to the rocky area. The area we believe to be the possible densite. We arrive and find Tailless fast asleep high up the rocky koppie. We play the waiting game and sit for close on 2 hours. She stirs and gets up. My heart pounds. She moves right down the koppie and then flops over. And then we see it: a single tiny cub! From the view we get we believe it to be in the region of 10- 14 days. We pencil in the date of mid July as a birthdate.
3rd August 2012
Some of the rangers head to the koppie and manage to get another view of the cub suckling from the mother
6th August 2012
We return to the den and see the cub scrambling away in the long grass. There is no mother in the area so we leave. We are happy to know it is still okay.
7th – 21nd August 2012
The den-site is visited numerous times and not a single sighting of either mother or cub. The worry too is that the mother has been seen numerous times with the remainder of the pride and no tracks give an indication that she is returning to the den. Maybe she has moved the cub? Maybe she has abandoned it?
22nd August 2012
Solly and I decide to try one last time at the Marthly Pools densite. By now there has been no sighting of the cub in about 16 days…we are worried! We sit longingly starring up at the rocks when suddenly we see the cub sitting in a crevice looking down at us. Completely relaxed and looking healthy.
Twenty days pass before this cub is seen again…
12th September 2012
Out of nowhere the cub gets seen on the Londolozi airstrip together with her mother and the remainder of the core Tsalala Pride. The ranging team is ecstatic. The cub is looking fat and healthy and at ease amongst the rest of the pride. It appears that the young one has a fascination with the tales of it’s pride mates. Makes sense as a tail is the one thing her mother lacks.
15- 20th September 2012
The cub is being seen fairly regularly at this time. It was interesting to hear the reported interaction between the Majingilane Males and the cub. This was all our big worry, but the first encounter appears to have gone off without an issue. At least three of the four male lions have seen this cub, approached it, sniffed it and then felt satisfied with the situation. Now those of you regular lion warfare followers will know how big a step this is for the Tsalala Pride. This is the fifth pride of the dominant Majingilane Coalition and the pride with which they have had had the most trouble. As far as we can make out, all four males must be considered the potential father of this cub!
20th September – beginning of October
The cub is moving around a lot with it’s mother both north and east of our boundary. Reports from other lodges all indicate that the little one is in great shape! A huge achievement for the Tailless Female!
This little cub, as far as my records indicate, is the 12th cub (6th litter) that Tailless has produced. Born back in early 1998 she is one of the oldest lionesses in the Sabi Sands. Her tailless appearance has made her a shining example of overcoming obstacles in ones life and facing hardships face on. Against all odds she has prevailed and continues to lead her small band of daughters across the northern regions of Londolozi, and beyond.
Often peoples idea of ‘the life of lions’ is one of lazing about with fat bellies. Little thought goes into the immense difficulties and extremes that these animals endure. One of the focuses of this blog post, and many before, is to repaint that picture and give a more accurate account of the day-to-day lives of a lion. For me, this little cub, summarizes every thing about this incredible Tsalala pride. In fact it goes beyond merely the Tsalala Pride; it symbolizes the true tenacity of Africa’s apex predator..the lion!
Quite a dramatic title for a simple blog post BUT I truly believe it to be true. We will keep you posted on her growth and development.
Written by Adam Bannister
Photographs by Adam Bannister, Talley Smith and Sean Carter