In my first 16 months of full time guiding, I have been fortunate enough to spend a lot of time with lions.
One pride in particular stands out for me and that is the Western Pride. Being in the West, they were the lions who I naturally spent the most time with and as a result, became very much attached to from an early stage. The following is my version of a photo blog, while telling their story from my point of view:
In July 2017, we began having frequent sightings of three lionesses, which included the old collared lioness, a young skittish girl who seemed to keep ruining their hunting attempts and a middle aged lioness who appeared to be nursing cubs (later confirmed as four cubs, two males and two females).
The pride had fragmented due to a number of young males leaving the safety of the group to begin the nomadic stages of their lives and as we were about to find out, another two lionesses were very much preoccupied with giving birth to new litters of their own!
Enter the cubs…
By September 2017 we had a new-look Western Pride which included six lionesses with 11 cubs from three different litters. It began to feel like every time we saw them, we were going to discover another litter of cubs! Jokes aside, it is advantageous for lionesses to have cubs at the same time as they are able to allo-suckle. This means that any lactating lioness in the pride is able to feed any of the cubs.
Photographically, things were becoming easier as we were learning the routes and game trails that the pride preferred to take, allowing us to position perfectly. Getting the composition right was now the challenge. I still haven’t managed to get all 17 lions in one image! This is when that shorter lens comes handy.
You may be wondering who and where the males are? Check out this post about the Spooner Males
Over months guests and I have been able to watch this pride grow in every way. The little fuzzy cubs started growing into their paws and were eventually all eating meat, which meant that more food had to be provided. The pride frequently split up for days at a time to do this. On one occasion that we know of, they managed to make three kills within 24 hours.
It has been an absolute privilege and a pleasure to get to know these lions and they have taught me so much over the last 16 months. Right now (09 September 2018) the oldest litter of now sub-adult lions are about 1 year and 4 months old. The seven younger cubs are approaching a year soon.
To end, here are a few more recent images of the Western Pride: