Lion cubs are fragile, bumbling cats with a high mortality rate in the wild. They’re born completely helpless and require protection and guidance from their mother until they’re old enough to leave their den site, which generally happens at 3 months old. This is when they’re ready to be introduced to their powerful birth pride. Not only do cubs face threats from marauding scavengers, stampeding bovids and sly predators; but they also face the dreaded underlying threat of infanticide from testosterone fuelled male lions in search of females to conquer and prides to take over. Seeing a healthy lion cub in the wild, thriving, surviving and confident is indeed a rare sighting.
Imagine the sheer delight of guides and guests when they spotted 10 lion cubs happily waddling through the crunchy ‘veld? Game drives with Ezulwini Game Lodges have delivered noteworthy big cat sightings recently, and this is not the first sighting of the tawny group of cubs. A couple months ago, 10 lion cubs were spotted together with their mothers, the Kudyela lionesses. The 10 cubs were sired by the reigning kings – the Machatons! In this particular sighting, which Angele visually documented, the 10 cubs were trailing behind 4 of the Kudyela lionesses. The pride were clearly on a mission to an undisclosed location, which could be anything from an ideal shady spot to a protected den site. The 4 lionesses each have cubs aged between 2 – 6 months (3 cubs, 3 cubs, 2 cubs and 2 cubs).
For months on end, Angele (lodge manager and avid field guide of River Lodge), sent through reports of sightings of the Kudyelas mating with the Machaton males, and kept a close eye on the dynamics on the traverse. With all the intense mating sessions, it was inevitable that we’d see new life emerging.
The Machatons are still holding their territory and blitz their way through their kingdom preying on unsuspecting game, and mating with available Kudyela lionesses. Power plays in the world of lions are always shifting, and at one stage 4 burly boys infiltrated the Machaton’s turf on a number of occasions, seemingly without fear. To date, the Machatons are still large and in charge, and successfully chased the burgeoning males away. There will always be threats to the Machaton brethren, but they have a pride to protect and hopefully theirs will be a dynasty that becomes a legacy.