“Lions are the most visible, most gregarious and noisiest of the cats. The patriarchs are dramatic to behold, with a cloud of mane as fragrant as dried grass – the only cat, domestic or wild, that displays such ornamentation. Add their high-voltage amber stare, deep chest and shoulders striated with muscle and sinew flowing under a golden skin as they drift though the bush, disappearing, reappearing, disappearing again and it is plain to see why few other animals rivet the imagination as vividly as the lion.”
– Mitch Reardon, Shaping Kruger
The African lion is a tactical predator that displays an extraordinary resourcefulness and inventive ability. In many a hunting situation they surprise us in ways that surpasses our interpretation. They ambush their prey, using teamwork and speed as their greatest weapon. But they cannot maintain that speed for long.
However, they are equipped with exceptional vision that’s approximately six times better than ours at night, so most of their kills are made after dark when they have more of the advantage. Nevertheless, from my own observations over six years, the Lions of the Sabi Sands have a habit of making kills in broad daylight. They are a pleasure to watch and a better understanding of their conservation status just adds to our appreciation of each sighting.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, place the African lion as Vulnerable, occurring in 26 countries including India, and a possible 7 additional countries where they don’t have any data. According to Panthera – a global organization devoted to the conservation of wild cat populations – they occupy just 8% of their historical range. It’s amazing to think that there was a time when the sound of a lion’s roar reverberated through the mountains surrounding Cape Town! But it’s not all doom and gloom. Apparently in Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa lion populations are on the increase. The good news is that there are solutions to most of the threats they face and through increasing global awareness and some big conservation initiatives the future of the African lion may be brighter than it has been in the past. By the Kruger National Park’s own admission their estimate is of 1600 lions across the reserve (give or take 225) and that includes the adjoining private concessions such as the Sabi Sand Wildtuin.
Londolozi Game Reserve is in the heart of the Sabi Sand Wildtuin (Game Reserve) and being situated in one of the lions’ remaining population strongholds, we count ourselves truly fortunate to be able to expose our guests to the high-voltage amber stare of these super predators from close quarters. Many of our guests are left feeling enthralled with each encounter and they are often at the core of every bush experience. I agree with Mitch Reardon when he said that few species rivet the imagination quite like the lion and with such a high profile species it’s our duty as guides to remind ourselves and our guests how lucky we are to see them on a regular basis.