A Good Mum

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Posted by Sara Blackburn at 1:54 AM

It’s been a few weeks now since Lilly introduced her cubs to the pride. Lilly never seemed comfortable, and unfortunately her two cubs didn’t survive. When I left her, Silver still had her four babies tucked away in a lugga, but they have since been introduced to her pride mates and a bigger world!

fourCome on mum!

As you can see, these four fluffy bundles are in great health. The next few months will be a testing time for both mum and cubs, but with good rain and plenty of food, they have a good chance of making it to adulthood. These three lionesses are great hunters, and successfully raised seven cubs through this year.
Following the loss of her cubs, Lilly has been mating with Caesar. If they mate successfully, Caesar will have sired three litters. Lionesses often mate with several males when they are in heat, but as the only resident pride male (and a magnificent one at that!) with no real challengers, Caesar’s building an impressive dynasty!

caesar & lilly Caesar and Lilly. She can be easily recognized by the area of patchy fur by
her left eye. She’s also rather fluffy.

Silver’s cubs are growing fast. They still have woolly fur, camouflaging spots and short tails. They will have to wait until they are five months of age before they grow a sleek coat and develop a tail tuft.

cubThe cubs are growing fast!

The cubs will be heavily dependant on their mother for a long time, and will suckle until they are around 6 months old. By the time they reach 3 months though they will develop a taste for meat, and will soon be fighting dad over first dibs on dinner!

suckling Mum has her paws full with four hungry cubs to feed

Hopefully we can begin the countdown to the arrival of Lilly’s cubs now. Fingers crossed that she will have more luck this time.
Happy Christmas and New Year from the Mara lions!

Facts of Life

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Posted by Sara Blackburn at 9:27 PM

The first few weeks of life is tough for little lions. They face many dangers, from heavy rains and floods to angry buffalo and sneaky hyena.

Last week, Lilly carried her two babies to Caesar and Siti. Both cubs and mum seemed comfortable and relaxed and I felt no need to worry.

littleones Lilly’s two cubs snuggle close

Sadly, Lilly became increasingly detached from her babies. After introducing them to the pride a little early, one small cub was seen lying some way from the group, and sadly was not seen again. When she took the remaining cub to a kill, she devoted most of her attention to her meal, leaving the little one alone amongst hyenas. Since then, there has been no sign of the cub.

lilly Lilly became uninterested in her babies…

Abandonment does occur with lion cubs, but this usually occurs with single cubs or those which are weak or injured. Lionesses also abandon cubs if there is a shortage of food, although I doubt that this is the case with these powerful, healthy girls. Perhaps Lilly sensed that her cubs were not well, or felt uneasy in the presence of the other lions? She did move the cubs regularly, which may have indicated that she was not settled.

This is a real shame, but the good news is that Silver’s cubs are still doing very well. My fingers are crossed for these ones, but I think they will do just fine. Lions are capable of reproducing quickly in the right conditions, and with Caesar resident in the group, she’ll soon be mating.

I’ll be keeping a close eye on the remaining four little ones. This group has certainly been through rough patches with their cubs... let's hope this trend doesn't continue.


First Glimpses

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Posted by Sara Blackburn at 7:30 PM

Over the past few days we’ve been lucky enough to have some snippet views of the new cubs. They’re tiny! When they’re born, lion cubs weigh less than 1% of their mother’s body weight.


These cubs are really well hidden – well done mum!

tiny cub

What a cutie!

Silver has hidden her babies deep inside a lugga, away from the pride. Lilly has also been hiding her cubs, but has been seen moving them to new locations. Both the elements and animals such as buffalo and hyena pose a threat to new cubs - moving them regularly prevents them from being detected.

lilly's cubs Lilly’s two babies stay close to mum


These little ones already have a sense of adventure

Yesterday was a special day for the cubs as they were introduced to the pride and to each other. This time, Caesar looked relaxed whilst Lilly brought her two little ones over to meet her pride mates. Later in the day, five cubs were seen together. They’re about two and a half weeks old and still a bit wobbly, and so are still carried by their mums.

emcarry Cubs are carried for a few weeks until they can keep up with mum

We’ll have to keep a close eye on the cubs over the next few weeks. Lion cubs are most at risk during this fragile time – fewer than 20% of cubs make it to adulthood. These lionesses have just successfully raised 7 cubs to bouncy 2 year olds though, so six shouldn’t be a problem!