It is with melting hearts that we announce the arrival of two blonde, fluffy male lion cubs and two youngish lionesses to Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre.
As always it is with a heavy heart that we take in some of the animals at our centre. It is always hard to face the difficult decisions regarding the welfare of each individual animal as well as making sure we look at the bigger picture of what will be best in the long run for the species. These cubs and young lionesses were no exception.
They all came from a farmer near the Zimbabwe border who kept lions on his farm in camps. They were, therefore, unable to kill, and were habituated to humans so could never be released back into the wild. Whilst waiting for the permits to arrive for his lions, they bred, and it eventually ended up in a lengthy court case as he was only allowed a certain number of lions on the farm. In the end the farmer won his case - the breeding of the lions was not his fault as it had taken so long for the permits to arrive - but he was still sitting with too many lions. The magistrate ordered that the excess of lions come to Moholo Rehab to live out their days in our education programme. Therefore, soon after the case was settled, two female lionesses arrived at the centre in September.
The two healthy young lionesses settled in quickly. It was with great excitement that we were able to dart the lionesses and get right up close to our new residents as essential tests needed to be done. The main reason was to find out as quickly as possible if these ‘girls’ were also pregnant, as well as moving them across to their newly secured enclosure. The day went off without a hitch and on closer inspection the girls were just as healthy and strong as we had hoped. Once tests were done, the report was sent to inform us that the females were not expecting, which brought great relief to us all. Captive bred lions can never be returned to the wild, and the prospect of more lions being born into the centre, and into a cage for the rest of their days, would have left us with a very difficult decision to make!
Shortly after the lioness’s arrival, two slightly smaller bundles arrived!
One of the lionesses the farmer discovered was pregnant at the time of the court case, and once her cubs were born the magistrate wanted these also to be sent to our centre. We had high hopes that these two cubs could be brought up by the staff and students and with correct training and protocols we could one day join them on their walks and hunts on our farm!
The anticipation in the air on the day of their arrival was electric! The bottles had been bought, extra teats ordered (most baby bottles are not designed for such boisterous and strong mouths) and boxes sterilized and padded ready for the new arrivals! And we weren’t disappointed!............
The two male cubs were only about 10 days old and as you can see from the pictures, absolutely adorable!
For the first week, at least, the cubs were to spend as much time as possible with their two new adopted mummies – Natalie Rogers and Stuart Robertson (two Moholo staff members). This was necessary so that they were able to form a lasting bond with two permanent figures throughout their young life. And so the rest of the staff and students had to stand back, with twitching fingers, during this adjustment period, and when you look at those two little faces, you can imagine this was not easy!!
Now, four weeks after their arrival, the cubs are of course growing by the day, and bit by bit their coordination is getting better- although they still waddle about and crash into things on occasion! Everyone is now welcome to join in and enjoy the cub’s antics, cuddles and games! Their eyesight is improving and their new friend, Jenny’s Maltese puppy (which she received for her Birthday by the way, much to Brian’s dismay) is relentless with her own games! She finds it endlessly entertaining to grab the cubs by the tail and try to pull them about! We are all waiting for the day when the cubs can coordinate themselves enough to ‘get their own back’!
The cubs already seem to be displaying their own separate personalities. ‘Duma,’ which is the cub Natalie takes care of, is more adventurous and outgoing. He is starting to display a slightly fiery temperament (not unlike his mother) and we are starting to have to discipline him already so that he will not be a danger to handle when he is older. ‘Duma’ means thunder in Zulu, and seemed rather fitting for this little cub. The cub Stuart cares for, which is the larger of the two, is much more affectionate. He has quite a reputation for enjoying cuddles from any lap he can find, and has a much more laid back temperament! He has been named ‘Thelo’ (meaning lightning in Shangaan) and we will wait to see if he eventually lives up to his new name!
The strength of these two little bundles is already surprising us all, and their big feet display as a testament to what they will one day become. Not to mention the claws!! If you look at the arms of Natalie and Stuart, and indeed now the students and staff which enjoy playing with the cubs, you will notice a startling trend! Each of them have scratches covering their arms and legs………..just another consequence of the job I’m afraid, and none of us would have it any other way!!!!!
We will keep you all updated with photos and stories as the cubs grow and develop!
Written by Alice Dell’Oca and Jenny Jones