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Back to Diary Index Ranger Diaries:

07 December 2018 Cute & Cuddly to Feisty Teens




Born Wild! Explore their first 365 days of adventure.


Today marks one year since the first sighting we had of the cubs after they were born. Thursday, 7 December 2017, will forever be ingrained in the minds of our staff and guests, as halfway through the afternoon drive, Thomas, one of our Senior Rangers, radioed in the call we had all been waiting for, "Hlope ngonyama with ncinci mampimpans”, meaning, "white lion with tiny little ones”.

The mother of the cubs is our first generation wild born white lioness, with the father being a seven-year-old split gene lion, who is tawny in colour, also born at Pumba. This produced a litter with mixed colouring, which is an important factor based on the limited genetic diversity of white lions worldwide. The birth of the cubs marked the achievement of our initial 2005 objective, which was to rehabilitate the white lion back into the wild, ensuring genetic diversity, by not limiting the genetics to the white, or leucistic, gene.

As the afternoon drives went out on this memorable day, there was no expectation of a sighting or even a glimpse of the cubs. We did however know the cubs must have been born due to their mother’s behaviour, but we had no idea of the exact timing of their birth. The moment Ranger Thomas radioed in the call, a ripple of excitement spread through Pumba.

The mother and her cubs were content lying in the shade of the thick bush, as each vehicle had its turn to view the little ones, ensuring very little noise, not disturbing the litter. With each vehicle passing by, new information developed. It started with three tawny, one white, which then become two white and two brown. Finally, after the little ones had moved around enough, it was confirmed that she had given birth to five cubs, one more than she gave birth to the last time.




From the beginning the cubs tormented mom, biting her tail and ears and climbing on top of her. As all moms are, she was patient, enduring through it all as they discover themselves and what they can do.



 
The cubs loved playing in the mud during the summer rains and sometimes ended up completely covered in mud, leaving mom to clean up their mess afterwards.




At 3 months the cubs finally started playing with dad, who softened up to them, allowing them close enough for a bit of play, though it never lasted long!




While our dominant male was in his physical peak and maturity, one of his sons was already showing an attitude that looks familiar to his dad at six months. Of the five cubs, this little boy is constantly veering off from the group and chasing wildebeest, impala and basically anything that moves!




As the curiosity of the cubs heightened, they started running after the vehicles, sniffing the tyres and everything else new to their surroundings. Our guests and rangers could take beautiful close up photos of the cubs as they came closer to the vehicles. In this photo you can even see the reflection of the Land Rover in the cub’s eyes.




Lion cubs only learn to hunt at around two years, before that, they rely on their mom for food. As the cubs were weaned at six months, mom often went off hunting, while the cubs were left behind to play. Some of our guests were lucky enough to witness their mom returning from what appeared to be an unsuccessful hunt, but the cubs were still thrilled to see her and rushed across the open plains to greet her.




Play-time sometimes got fairly creative! Lions are not known to climb trees, so it was quite amusing watching our cubs at play and pushing their limits.




At nearly six months old, the cubs often became too much for mom. The five little attention seeking cubs often left mom feeling grumpy and annoyed, causing her to occasionally move away from them. From time to time she would give each one a good cleaning and some much-needed attention. However, as anticipated, jealousy would become a factor and the cubs would then swarm their mother for a little extra love.




Cats will be cats! During a game drive, one of our guests managed to lose her hat in the wind. Unfortunately for her, the cubs were nearby, promptly grabbing a hold of it and began to chew. After almost 2 hours of the hat being passed from cub to cub, it was eventually retrieved, although rather battered and bruised!




As the cubs continued to grow, their games started looking like pro wrestling matches! As autumn turned to winter, we were lucky to see all of our cats moving throughout the day, as opposed to much lazier behaviour during the heat of summer.




They love running up to their mom and gran after playtime and piling onto them to greet them with furry cuddles. In this photo, one greeting simply wasn’t enough for two of the youngsters, they came in for a second hello, much to the discomfort of mom and the annoyance of gran.




Male lions generally aren’t as playful with cubs as lionesses, so this tender moment between father and son captured during an afternoon game drive was amazing to witness!




Their transition from cute little cubs to bold and confident youngsters over the past 365 days has been spectacular! The next 365 days we will see the manes of the male cubs growing out as they transition into adult lions. 

Pumba is unique in that it is the only known reserve in the world to have a fully re-established and a self-sustaining pride of lion comprising of both tawny and white lions. Earlier in 2017 the year the Global White Lion Protection Trust in the Thornybush area of the Timbavati, recognised our success by taking two white lions from Pumba, a five-year-old male and female to supplement their breeding program, in an effort to reintroduce the white lion into the Timbavati region, where they were first discovered in 1938, but since disappeared. 

We look forward to keeping you updated on the wild adventures of the cubs over the next 365 days.


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