It’s been an exciting few days around the reserve but there are few things that excite me more than seeing new cubs for the first time.
Things were starting to warm up and we decided to drive some of the shadier sections along the Sand River where things were slightly cooler. We switched off the vehicle to listen to the morning bird chorus as well as for any alarms. Moments after switching off we heard the deep roar of a lion’s call just starting; the best morning call there is in the bush.
My excitement levels rose as we were in the part of the reserve where the Mhangeni pride have been spending a lot of their time. I had only been told by the other rangers who had seen them about a month ago – the 15th of August to be exact – about the newest additions to the pride and I couldn’t wait to find them.
We managed to navigate our Land Rover over reed ridges and soft sandy patches into the middle dry channel of the Sand River where we thought the calls were coming from. And right in front of us was the pride lying in the sand – with two of the cubs that are just older than 3 months. The overwhelming feeling of excitement that takes over your whole body when you see small cubs is something I will always struggle to convey.
We had heard elephants moving through the river not very far from where the pride was lying and some of the females weren’t feeling too comfortable, so they got up and moved away from where we were. It was seriously soft sand and we were unable to follow them on a direct line, so had to loop around. As a result we couldn’t see where the lions had gone and as we left the river we found them again lying in the shade just next to the road.
The Mhangeni pride are part of a lineage that dates back more than two decades.
These two cubs are now just over three months old which means they are going to be spending more time moving around with the pride as opposed to being left behind at a den while the pride moved around. They will still be suckling but will also start being weaned off milk and onto meat but for the meantime they will be subsisting on a combination of both meat and milk.
This pride moves on and off Londolozi so we can’t be guaranteed of regular sightings, but since it looks like a second lioness has given birth, it’s likely that when they are around in future, sightings might even be that much better.