Introducing the newest members of the Mhangeni Pride

Sabi Sand | October 2020

Every now and again the pride (and us) gets a bit lucky.

They were fortunate to come across a bull hippo at Castleton Dam who had succumbed to his injuries after a territorial fight with a larger stronger bull. These fights are well documented and can last hours often ending in death if two bulls are evenly matched with neither feeling they should be submissive.

It is ironic how hyenas have this ‘bad’ reputation for being scavengers but what a lot of people don’t realise is how often lions scavenge and, honestly, why not? I see it as opportunistic, it’s really tough enough out here and a free meal is always easier than a meal you have to work for, so why not? The pride have really made the most of it, at the time of writing this they have been on site for three days with hundreds of vultures gathering and no signs of leaving just yet. It is something that I have always admired about nature and something we should mirror is the fact that nothing ever goes to waste.

Now we have known for some time that one of the younger lionesses in the Mhangeni pride has a litter of new cubs, believed to be well hidden along the Sand River. But out of ethical boundaries and respect for her we have not pushed any further than just knowing. One early morning we went straight to the hippo carcass in the hope of seeing good feeding activity before the heat kicked in. From a distance we could see good activity but had no idea what we would see next. Behind a small bush there were two little cubs no older than about three months, clearly a little nervous, but that didn’t last long with mom calling them out in the open to feed at her side, and at times carrying them to bring the one slightly more nervous cub closer.

We always love relaxed animals with our presence but relaxed females of any species are so exciting! Why this is, is because from a young age they mimic mom’s behaviour and body language. If mom is relaxed and comfortable with us then they immediately mirror that behaviour. And with the females knowing we will always give them their space, definitely not hurt the cubs or steal the food, they are incredibly tolerant of our presence. Tolerant always being a key word, understanding that we are in their space.

We can’t wait for more sightings like this and watching these newest members of the pride grow!