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Cecil’s Pint-Sized Gladiators

Cecil’s Pint-Sized Gladiators

When we visited Hwange in mid-November, Cecil’s pride had not been seen for some weeks. We were very keen to find them, so we decided to drive to an area they’d been previously sighted, hoping – but not really expecting – to catch a glimpse of them.

Well, we hit the royal jackpot. The pride came strolling through the bush to the pan, cool as you please, in front of our incredulous eyes. We watched spellbound these wild, free creatures – young, beautiful and thriving.

We were aware of another lion or lions in the vicinity. Every so often we could hear a very low moan not far off. We accounted for all 6 cubs, and 2 lionesses, and thought that the third lioness of the pride may be nearby.

Some buffalo cautiously approached the pan, and within minutes, the lions were on the hunt. We were treated to the awesome experience of watching the pride successfully taking down a buffalo cow, but still no third lioness appeared.

A lone wildebeest came in to drink while the two pride females grappled with the buffalo. The cubs immediately pricked up their ears, and took a few tentative steps towards it. But the prospect of an imminent buffalo dinner proved way more attractive than wildebeest on the hoof, and they soon lost interest.

A short while later, we were again aware of the cubs, alert, fixing their attention on a spot behind us. We turned and were astonished to discover 4 more lions approaching – two mature females and 2 cubs a little bigger than Cecil’s sprogs. Initially there was no overt aggression from Cecil’s pride as the four walked closer and flopped down waiting patiently to see if they could cash in on a meal. But the two new youngsters could not hold back, and tentatively tried to worm their way in to the kill. Cecil’s pint-sized gladiators wasted no time in teaching the impostors a sharp lesson in lion etiquette, and the intruders scampered, whimpering, back to their mum.

One of the new lionesses was wearing a collar, and there was evidence of an old injury to her right ear, so Brent, of Hwange Lion Research easily recognized her from photographs. She was a female from the Ngamo pride, the members of which are totally unrelated to Cecil’s pride. Unfortunately we could not wait to see how the drama played out, as darkness fell and we had to get back to camp. But we’ll watch with interest for further news of the lions of this precious pride and the unfolding dynamics surrounding them.

Twisting Tales – Cecil and Jericho

Twisting Tales – Cecil and Jericho

Cecil and Jericho
Cecil & Jericho (Standing).
Image: Brent Stapelkamp

This is a story – a true story, and is as fascinating as it is factual. It demonstrates some of the interesting idiosyncrasies of lion life that have been documented by the Hwange Lion Research Team (HLR) through the use of radio tags and GPS collars.

 

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Cubs at Ngweshla
Image: scottyphotography.net

Although born at different times and with completely different lineage, Cecil and Jericho would have shared many common aspects in their very early weeks and months of life. Both would have been kept hidden to protect them for the first six or so weeks after birth, blind, helpless and totally dependent on their mothers for food and warmth. They would have been brought out of hiding and timorously introduced to the pride, would have known hunger, would have had to squabble, snarl and fight with other youngsters in the pride for the scraps of a kill. They would have known the freezing cold of Hwange winter nights and the breathless, blistering October daytime heat. They would have played and tussled with similar aged siblings, all the while learning vital skills needed in later years. They would have known the fright and confusion of dispersal males, driven from the pride at 3 or so years of age so as not to compete with the dominant male, nature’s way of dispersing the gene pool. They would have learned to become competent hunters in their own right in order to survive.

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