Lions. Everybody wants to see Africa’s King of the Beasts. They’re truly magnificent creatures, beautiful, graceful, social – and lethal!
Most people on safari see them resting under a tree in the daytime heat. The lucky ones see them feasting on a recent kill. The fortunate few actually see them making a kill.
It looks like a pretty easy life. Rest 20 hours a day, play with the cubs, yawn a lot, then get up in the evening to go out and find a meal.
Imagine you’re stopped in an open 4X4 in the fading dusk and a pride of lions are just starting to move out on the hunt. Your pro guide says to sit still and make no sudden movements. Ignoring you, the lions walk right beside the vehicle, so close you could reach your hand out to touch one (definitely not a good idea!).
You hold your breath and can feel your pounding heartbeat. The sudden rush of adrenaline is a moment you will never forget!
Cecil and Xanda
Cecil the Lion, made famous by the Minnesota dentist, had a pride in the region of our home camp, Linkwasha, before he was lured out of the National Park and killed.
Xanda, Cecil’s son, like his father, was a magnificent male. We followed him quietly one afternoon as he was patrolling his territory, spray-marking trees and bushes along the track. He was fulfilling his male lion responsibility to protect a territory large enough and game-rich enough to support his pride.
For an hour we sat in our 4X4 a few feet from this beautiful animal with the soulful, amber eyes as he rested on the grass. Time stood still in our silent awe.
Some months later, Xanda’s pride had split and he was forced to expand his territory to the east. He crossed the invisible boundary of the National Park and now, no longer in its protection, he too sadly, was shot by a trophy hunter. It was devastating. It felt like losing an unforgettable friend.
For lions, life isn’t as easy as it may look when we see them resting under a tree during the day. We may think of them as Africa’s royalty but make no mistake, across the continent, their survival is under real threat. Only 23,000 survive today – that’s even fewer than the number of rhinos.
As Shakespeare’s Henry IV said: “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.”