We wrote a couple of days ago about the future of the Ntsevu pride; whether they’ll split up when the pride gets too big and in particular how the smallest cubs are faring.
It’s these latter three we want to focus on in particular today.
Timing, it seems, is everything. Out in the bush as well. And with lions, just like humans, you don’t get to choose your family. Survival for a cub has so much to do with things outside of their control, and for the three smallest Ntsevu cubs, things at the moment are on a knife-edge. Their timing of being born several months after a whole lot of older litters is suddenly seeming like a tough hand to get dealt.
Young cubs will often get left by their mother for a couple of days while she goes off hunting. The older they get, the longer she can afford to leave them. As they start getting into the few-months-old age bracket, they will spend more and more time with the pride until they start moving with them permanently.
Now, the Ntsevu pride are moving around quite a bit, but they don’t seem to be paying close attention to what is happening to the three youngest members. Multiple times over the last couple of months we find one or more of these cubs absent from the pride. Granted, they’ve managed to rejoin each time (or have the pride head back to fetch them), but they’re at an age now in which they are starting to wander about on their own, and this is where it gets dangerous.
I don’t know the decision making process that goes on inside a small lion’s head, but one of the golden rules of bush survival that humans get taught is “stay with the vehicle”. In other words, don’t wander off. The cubs don’t seem to be sticking to this.
Because the cubs are struggling to get their share of many kills (the pride has been killing lots of impalas, which doesn’t go far between 20 lions and two Birmingham males.), they have been in a fairly weakened state of late. I imagine a lot of the left-behind incidents stem from them staying behind at kill sites for longer than they shouldn’t trying to get as many scraps as possible, and when the pride moves off, they are still struggling for morsels. They should by rights be able to follow the scent-trail of the pride to find them, but this hasn’t always happened, and most of the lost-and-found periods end with tracks of a couple of the lionesses heading back to the last place they were with the cubs, and finding them nearby.
The last 72 hours have seen the pride kill two adult zebras. Thankfully this has brought the cubs some breathing room and the last time we saw them they were full-bellied and looking in much better condition. I don’t want to make any predictions here as there are just too many variables at play, but I do know that the cubs aren’t yet out of the woods, not by a long shot.
In our previous Ntsevu post, we talked about the pride splitting in a few months when the adult lionesses come into oestrus once more.
A family split might be just the break the youngest litter needs…