The Lion Queen – African Lion Panthera leo
The old phrase “lightning never strikes twice” is born in myth and truth depending on how this phrase is used. Most storm chasers will have you know that this is false and given enough time it is certainly quite inevitable. Lightning can and will strike the same place twice at any time.
There are many things to be learned from nature, and certainly the lesson that stands out the most is that nature cannot be ‘forced’, and its predictability is totally unpredictable.
It was with much surprise (and yet none at all) that we were witness to one of natures repeats right on our doorstop almost two years after the first, to the very day. July 2017, we were to witness the behavioural changes in the Western Pride Lionesses, who were preparing to be mothers for the very first time. The larger of the two sisters was showing signs of carrying cubs first, and her behaviour was evident that it was nearly time for her to give birth. Early on the morning of the 27th July 2017, her tracks were found in camp after the morning drive had departed. She had walked up the valley gorge to the camp and headed past the kitchen, continuing to the Indaba. Her clear sand pug marks were found walking over the deck past the drums right through reception. Approximately two weeks later she gave birth to two healthy boys.
9th July 2019, it’s a cool winter’s morning and the recent refurbishment in camp is coming to an end. The lodge team has been back for four days, fervently putting things in place for our first group of guests arriving on the 11th. Having just completed the morning briefing, the team drifted to prepare for the day and there we found clear evidence of the same lioness in camp.
There were the distinct sand pug marks over the deck again, but this time it was different. She was not alone. The Thembe male had been with her. His tracks are clear in the image with the red arrows, complete with his need to mark territory on the deck with a short urine spray.
Although he was not bold enough to tread where she had before, he had been within 2 metres of the reception door. The lioness had proceeded across the deck past the drums as is evident in the photographs. She continued on the path down towards the kitchen, again where her tracks are clear. We lose them close to the boma deck but can ascertain that she did not continue past the kitchen to room 3. Having looked around we assumed she headed back to the waterhole and met up with the Thembe male before they headed down to Fig Tree Plains.
It’s always exciting having game come close to camp, and we are fortunate enough with the waterhole attracting a variety of mammals and birds on a regular basis. Our trip cameras have caught many exciting “behind the scenes” images of animals using the area while we all sleep away the nights.
Although on this occasion she was not alone, nor suspected to be pregnant, she felt the need to revisit her original route when searching for a suitable den to give birth two years prior. We felt this was her stamp of approval on the recent build and refurbishment work we had completed in camp and this was her signing off on our new kitchen.
Text and photographs: Neil Davison
- Personal observations on Welgevonden Game Reserve and other Reserves in Southern Africa