It’s not what you think.
The title, thankfully, is literal. The Tsalala lioness was found moving along the southern bank of the Sand River with her three small cubs, but then moved north into the thick reedbeds.
Ranger Andrea Sithole crossed the river, anticipating the lioness’s movement and waiting near an open sandy section. He eventually heard soft grunts as the lioness called to her cubs from the reeds, and was rewarded when they emerged onto the river sand. This is where knowing the area well and predicting animal behaviour plays a big part, as Andrea again made the call to wait up ahead, next to some large boulders. If the lioness simply bypasses, so be it, but if she climbed up onto the rocks, it would present a spectacular view for Andrea, tracker Trevor and their guest.
Needless to say, that’s exactly what happened:
The family of four sat and groomed each other for about 10 minutes as the morning sun slowly rose above the Jackalberry trees to the east.
They eventually moved off the boulder and continued upstream in the riverbed.
A herd of maybe 60-70 buffalo was grazing in and next to the river shallows about 300m further on, but although buffalo might make a decent target for a pride, a single lioness with small cubs in tow is very unlikely to want to tangle with them, and the Tsalala female detoured back to the southern side of the river, where we once again lost sight of her.
Tracks of just the lioness were found later in the morning crossing the river all alone, so she had surely left her litter in the reedbeds somewhere.
Let’s hope she brings them out again soon…