A Pride of Lions

Wildlife Spotlight | 6th May 2019

This is the first in a series of posts from Ranger Sean Jones, sharing his experiences at Shambala Private Game Reserve.

She walked across the road ever so quietly and elegantly, as she crossed she stopped and stared back at us with those deep yellow and black eyes as if to make sure no-one is following her. Looking in those eyes makes you feel like she is looking into your soul. The lioness continued on her way as if we weren’t even there. She walked on through the rocky outcrops when suddenly we heard her making a call. Soft, encouraging calls echoing through the air. That’s when I realised the lioness was not calling to announce her presence, nor was she calling to the male lion – the lioness was making contact calls to her cubs!

Whilst still on our pleasant morning game drive we silently watched as she walked towards a formation of sedimentary rock. Some movement caught my eye to the left of the lioness. It was one of the cubs, coming out of hiding to greet mom and respond to her gentle call. It was so small in comparison to the big female. As the cub stumbled over the rocks to get to mom, another one followed behind. Two cubs! What an amazing sight to witness. The female embraced her two offspring, and had to do a bit of reprimanding to prevent too much attention drawn to them. She then grasped one of the cubs in her mouth, for safe keeping and reprimand, and continued slowly up the rocky slopes where they joined up with another lioness of the same pride, possibly her sister and together they vanished into the wilderness with the cubs. Lions are quite sociable and enjoy living together as well as taking care of their offspring in the same fashion.

A lioness can give birth to approximately 4 – 5 cubs, and her gestation period is about 110 days (3,5 Months). Generally not all of the cubs survive, as they are very vulnerable at this stage to the likes of Eagles, Snakes, Jackals, Hyaenas, and other predators that are in competition to lions – including other lions. Luckily for the cubs they also have a father figure that is “the King of the Jungle”. The dominant male lion, with his large mane, is often found to be more associated with the pride when he has cubs and will often be seen in the same vicinity as the females in these circumstances.

However, he also has a large territory that he controls and needs to defend against all threats, so he has to go on “patrol” or go and do what we call Territorial Marking. This is done by the male whereby he defecates and urinates on the borders of his territory to label it as his. In such instances he will leave the females with the cubs and go on patrol for a few days, sometimes lasting as long as a week before returning to the pride. Males can also be seen forming a coalition with other male lions from the same bloodline, or very closely related, and these males will then patrol and defend an area together and both belong to the same pride, one being dominant over the other.

On Shambala Private Game Reserve, our pride of Lions consists of the two females and the cubs, as well as two male lions – brothers forming a coalition. They roam the wilderness on the reserve and can often be seen walking along the road, taking a nap, or even scaling a hillside in the distance. If you are lucky enough, you may even get to witness a hunt! I take pride in being able to have witnessed such a sighting with these large, and small, cats in a kind of paradise.

Ranger Sean Jones
Shambala Private Game Reserve


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