The Western Pride of Pilanesberg

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:

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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!

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The Old Collared lioness is now about 18 years old and still going strong. Age is just a number, right?

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.

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You may be wondering who and where the males are? Check out this post about the Spooner Males

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Growing up… We noticed that one male cub of the oldest litter was well ahead of his siblings in terms of physicality and bravery. He has a habit of having staring contests with the game viewers. We started referring to him as ‘Kenta’ which in Japanese means to be well formed and healthy.

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.

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The Old Collared lioness just moments after pulling down a fully grown Zebra on her own. Not bad for an old lady, huh?
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Just minutes later, the rest came trotting down the road to feed on the newly provided meal.
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A (half) family portrait.
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The Western Pride will often be seen moving between Batlhako Dam and Ruighoek Dam.
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Pilanesberg sure does provide some colourful backdrops.
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To see the whole pride reuniting after spending some time apart are some of my favourite memories. The bond between these lions is clear.
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A female of the oldest litter, now almost adult size, still sometimes waits while the others go hunting.

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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:

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A lioness at Batlhako Dam. A favourite spot.
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One of the Spooner brothers with the pride at sunrise.

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‘Kenta’ in February 2018.

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A future force to be reckoned with.

12 thoughts on “The Western Pride of Pilanesberg

  1. Thank you for a lovely and informative article. We saw 2 lionesses right in front of our unit at Kwa-Maritane in July. One of them was also a skittish young girl who spoiled their hunt on a family of warthogs. She turned on my son who was standing at the fence taking photos instead!

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  2. I have been waiting for so long for someone like you to share your sightings and observations in the Pilanesberg 🙂
    I am a regular reader of the Londelozi blog and even though I have never been there I became so familiar with their lion prides and leopards that one cannot help but grow attached.
    I am a regular visitor of the Pilanesberg and it brings me great joy to read about the antics about the resident prides 🙂 I have seen the central pride many times as well as the two Black Rhino males. In August I saw 3 lionesses and a young male in Moloto for the first time. I have never heard much about the Western pride – what a pleasant surprise 🙂 I am surprised at how big the pride is. I REALLY hope you will keep this up, cannot wait to read more!
    Thank you also for sharing your beautiful photos.

    From your new biggest fan 🙂

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    1. Wow thanks so much for the kind words, I’m glad you enjoy it! Its nice to know that people are interested in more than what’s on the surface at Pilanesberg. I hope you get to see them at some point, definitely have a look around Batlhako Dam in the early mornings 👍🏼

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  3. Wow! Thank you for this interesting insight. We saw the Western Pride this weekend (7 October 2018) near Batlhako Dam. We will definitely make it part of our trip each time we go there.

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