A few days ago we ran a post speculating on the whereabouts and indeed the possible death of the Tsalala Pride’s latest cubs. No-one had seen them for a week or so, and the pride had been found everyday, away from the suspected densite on the Southern Cross Koppies.
We are happy to report that our fears were unfounded, as two evenings ago, ranger Daniel Buys was exploring the area around the koppies, looking for any sign of the pride, when movement high up on the slope caught his eye. Edging in closer with the vehicle, he and his guests were thrilled to see a tiny pair of teddy bear ears sticking up from behind a rock, soon to be joined by three more pairs, as the (now confirmed) four cubs of the tailed Tsalala lioness emerged one-by-one from their den.
Unable to ascertain whether or not the females were there, Dan kept his distance, but the cubs were more than happy with the vehicle far down below them, and were curious as to what was going on. They came out and lay with their paws over one of the rocks in front of the entrance to the cave that formed their den, providing an amazing view for those who were there.
We moved in for a look for a few minutes as the evening descended, watching the distant cubs through our binoculars as they played around beneath the eaves of a rock fig growing above them. Totally unconcerned with us, they went about their business quite happily, confident in their proximity to the den to be able to duck into cover should a predator hove into view.
It is our policy not to view young cubs without the mother present, but in this case, with no impact upon them owing to the distance and isolation of the top of the koppie, we were able to have a brief view before leaving them undisturbed. Tracks of the females had in fact headed straight for the koppie from the evening before, so it is likely the mothers were sleeping nearby.
The good news is that the cubs had full bellies, which tells us that their mother has most certainly been returning to the den to nurse them. From the looks of them, they are roughly 2 or 3 months old, and within the next couple of weeks it is likely we will see their mother leading them to kills for the first few times.
As far as den-sites go, their current one appears far safer than the palm island in the Manyelethi Riverbed the female was previously using, as the cubs will be be able to scurry into the safety of the boulders within seconds.
We will eagerly follow the progress of the cubs over the next few weeks…
Written and Photographed by James Tyrrell