"Is this the pride we've heard so much about?"
"How many cubs do you count?" "one, two... I've got 6! The future is looking good if they can hold on".
That was August 2015, when we started our lion collaring operation. This pride became our top priority and they had been quite a challenge to track down. With two adult females and one adult male, this pride was overrun with cubs. This pulse of cubs was the response of these females to the retaliatory killing of the previous year- when nearly 60% of the lions were killed through poison and shooting by villagers that had lost significant numbers of livestock.
The Pride females were later named Mayenga (Decorated by the Gods) and Mamalapo (Lady of the Floodplains) by the community. Mayenga was collared so that we could monitor their joint-parenting skills. We knew that even under the best of circumstances lions can lose 50% of their cubs before adulthood, so when we caught up with Mayenga and Mamalapo in early 2016 it was not surprising to see that their litters were reduced to only 2 female. Though it was unfortunate to lose 2/3 of these cubs, these two addition females represented a doubling of the pride!
Recently our team collared a large male lion named Gombo (Gombo is the name for the region of his territory) who happened to be mating with one of these subadult cubs on January 22nd. As you can see from the photos she still has pronounced spots on her legs and belly. Lions reach sexual maturity around 2.5 years old and only typically begin mating with any success after 3. This subadult is likely approaching 2.5 and seems eager to contribute to an already bursting lion population. With no recorded lions mortalities in 2016 and 5 other females giving birth to at least 13 cubs, we suspect that our population is on pace for a dramatic rise.
We are grateful to our partner communities who have asked about Mayenga and her cubs over the years and shown commitment to protecting lions while facing the costs.
It seems that our first cubs are all grown up!