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Birth of four wild lion cubs in KZN makes 50-year history

SOMKHANDA community game reserve has welcomed four new cubs born at the reserve in over 50 years.

This after three lions, one male and two females, arrived at their new home in northern KwaZulu-Natal, from Phinda private game reserve in May last year.

The translocation was carried out as part of Phinda’s lion management strategy, supported by Empowers Africa and inspired by the powerful feature documentary Blood Lions.

The lions were released from the boma into the greater reserve in August last year and have roamed freely over approximately 4 800 ha ever since.

“Soon after their release the male was seen mating with one of the females and we suspected she was pregnant,” said Wildlands’ strategic manager of conservation, Dave Gilroy. “The teams then saw some signs that indicated the female had given birth and we have been anxiously waiting since then for her to bring the cubs out into the open. Our monitoring team finally had their first glimpse of the female with her cubs and fortunately had a camera in hand and we can confirm that there are four healthy and happy cubs in the litter. These cubs are the first wild lions born on Somkhanda in the past 50 plus years since lions were persecuted and exterminated from the area.”

“As one of the founders of Somkhanda I am very excited about the news of the cubs,” said Nathi Gumbi, a member of the Gumbi tribe and Wildlands’ strategic manager for community engagement. “This is a good example of how animals are actually similar to us as human beings. We share our lives with nature. Our ancestors and my community have welcomed the lions and we are very proud.”

“Blood Lions fully supports the conservation of lions in the wild,” commented Pippa Hankinson, producer of Blood Lions. “When one sees a great example of lion conservation in a natural area, such as the Somkhanda lion translocation project, it once again raises the question as to why South African decision makers continue to support the captive breeding and canned hunting of lions? As lion ecologists repeatedly state, captive bred lions have no conservation value and attempts to reintroduce these animals into natural areas is not a viable conservation option. When visiting South Africa, one cannot surpass the incredible experience of seeing lions roaming free in the wild. This is as opposed to seeing them in small enclosures with no possibility of ever leading the wild lives they were born to live.”