The act of motherhood

Lions are known to be the most sociable and family orientated cats in Africa. If a lioness has cubs, unlike the father, she will be an amazing mother who will protect her babies from anything. Despite a mother’s love for her cubs, unfortunately, the survival rate of lion cubs is extremely low – about 30% from when they are born to the age of about two years. This is due to many factors, such as other lions or even an act of vengeance by a raging herd of buffalo.

Nevertheless, one of our females has done an extremely good job taking care of her two little ones. She has kept them away from the other lions for about a year now in order to ensure their safety. We all thought that she would stay on her own with her two cubs but just the other day they were found sharing a kill with our dominant male lion and lioness. We were stunned yet happy. However, this did not last very long. After a day or two she moved off with her cubs again.

Despite this introduction to the other lions, the cubs, or rather sub-adults are still your typical lion cubs. Their size (almost as big as their mother) does not stop them from being the young “cubs” that they are. They still play with each other and their mother – sometimes climbing up into trees, chasing each other, realizing that getting down is not as easy as getting up. This child play is important for these sub-adults as they are still building up their strength to be able to hunt on their own one day.

Staying with their mother is also very important. Never mind their dependence on her for protection and survival, but she will teach them all the necessary tools they will need in order to engage in a successful hunt. And I must say, she is doing an exceptional job.

These lions have shown and taught us so many things about their interactions and experiences – even their emotions. And I am sure that we all cannot wait to see what we will learn next.

Kim Pretorius – River Lodge
27/05/2012

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A Pleasant Safari

This evening on safari we got to see a couple of animals that you don’t see on a daily basis.

We found a fairly large herd of elephants and sat with them for a good couple of minutes, observing how they interacted with one another, from the youngsters playing to the adults focusing on more serious matters that included the bulldozing of a couple of trees.

Not to far from the elephants was a dried up riverbed that I decided to drive through. Inside we found a very nice surprise – two honey badgers digging and sniffing along the edges of the river bed, probably looking for a tasty snack. These animals are so elusive and rarely seen and as a result we know so little about them. They allowed us to follow them as they were making their way from the river bed to some thicker vegetation.

As it grew darker our attention switched to the nocturnal animals, and what a bonus as we found another very elusive animal called an aardvark, also known as an antbear. These animals consume thousands of termites every night, and are responsible for many of the natural holes you’ll find in termite mounds. These holes then are utilized as homes by many other animals such as warthogs, mongoose and porcupines just to name a few.

A very pleasing safari with some very happy guests!

Wayne – River Lodge
21/05/2012

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Kings of the African bush

Spending time with the big cats of the bush is one of my favourite past times. My tracker, Given, and I were tracking one of the female lions that roam across the southern parts of the reserve. The lactating mother of three was on a hunt – we could pick it up in the tracks and signs that she left us. After about an hour of tracking, we could feel the suspense rising.

The anticipation had ended. We found her at last. The events unfolding in the next thirty minutes will stay imprinted in the lives of my guests as well as myself. As we pulled in to view the female we saw some vulnerable warthogs, not to far from where we were now.

We were treated by the bush on this particular day – finding this amazing creature whom we could spend enough time with to see her go through her motions from the start to the end of the stalk, the chase and eventually the end result, the kill. With emotions flaring we ended our safari on a high note!

Lions are truly the king of the African bush.

F.W de Klerk
19/05/2012

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Our Warrior

Before we set off on our afternoon safari, I decided to go to an area in which they had spotted our old “warrior” of a leopard. Even though leopards generally move around a lot, I decided to try my luck so that maybe my guests would get a chance to see the infamous “Big 5”.

We went to the area and found some fresh tracks. As we followed them, we bumped into one of the other rangers who had also been following up on this elusive animal. So we decided to help each other in the area. The tracks went into the bush so our trackers got off the vehicle to see where they were going. When they came back, they said they had found something.

We went into quite a thick area, going over bushes and dodging branches. The guests were enjoying this excitement and knew they would see something great. Finally, we found him – we call him Klara. He is an old leopard who has a broken foot, is blind in his right eye, and has lost a lot of his fur on his face, yet he is still standing. Many of our rangers have thought he would not last much longer.

Nevertheless, we found him on a wildebeest kill that he had made, regardless of all his fallbacks. This is a reminder of how strong this leopard really is and also a life lesson – no matter how tough things may become or how much one hurts, you can stay strong.

So we will never know how long this leopard will be around but we do know that he is definitely a warrior and will not give up on his life for as long as he can. Klara is truly an animal that is respected and appreciated by many.

Kim Pretorius – River Lodge
17/05/2012

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Fearless!

My guests had never seen lions before so when we started our safari, we decided to go to an area were the lions had been seen the day before. Magnum (my tracker) found fresh tracks and we followed them for quite some time.

After following these tracks, we found them – three females and a male sleeping next to the dam. As we sat there watching the pride of lions, the one female started calling for her cubs. They came tackling one another while running towards their mother without a care, just enjoying being young and carefree. After watching them play and learn, they started suckling from their mother.

After a while the cubs moved off and we decided to stay with them. The cubs started to spread out and circle a francolin (a small ground bird) and tried, very unsuccessfully, to catch it. As we were watching this, a massive male giraffe walked towards the pride of lions. The lions noticed the presence off the large giraffe and even though they had eaten the previous day, they knew that an adult giraffe was too big for them kill – or at least the more experienced lions had that knowledge.

On the other hand, the three five month old cubs know no fear and they saw this big meal going to waste. To our amazement the cubs started circling and stalking the giraffe. They got rather close before two of them decided they had “bitten off more than they could chew” and went back to their mother for protection. The other cub, however, would not give up so easily and continued the hunt. As he reached the road and ran out of cover he charged the giraffe and even tried to roar.

Needless to say, he stopped short of the unconcerned giraffe and decided to turn around towards safety. This experience was so comical to watch and was amazing to see how fearless such a small lion can be. All I know is that I wouldn’t want to run into him when he is a fully grown lion, ready to rumble.

Michael Lester – River Lodge
15\05/2012

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