PICS: Somkhanda Community Game Reserve lions reveal their cubs

2018-02-24 12:30 - Kavitha Pillay
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Cape Town - Just ahead of World Wildlife Day on 3 March 2018, themed 'Big Cats: Predators under threat', Somkhanda Community Game Reserve's lions in northern KZN reveal their new cubs.

A pride of three lions - 1 male and 2 female - arrived at Somkhanda Community Game Reserve in May 2017 from AndBeyond Phinda Private Game Reserve - a translocation that was part of Phinda’s lion management strategy.

The lions were released from the boma into the greater reserve in August 2017 to be able to roam freely over 12 000 acres. Soon after their release the male was seen mating with one of the females.

ALSO SEE: PICS: Phinda lions released in Somkhanda Game Reserve massive boost for lion conservation

Wildlands Strategic Manager of Conservation, Dave Gilroy, says the teams saw some signs that indicated the female had given birth and "have been anxiously waiting 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 we can confirm that there are 4 healthy and happy cubs in the litter," says Gilroy, adding that the cubs are the first wild lions born on Somkhanda in the past 50 years "since lions were persecuted and exterminated from the area”.

Four cubs were spotted sticking close to their mom at Somkhanda Community Game Reserve. (Photo: Pippa Orpen)

Working with Gumbi community

The lion introduction was supported and guided by the Emwokweni Community Trust and Gumbi Community to create a Big 5 game reserve on their land.

Wildlands CEO and Executive Producer of Blood Lions, Dr Andrew Venter, says it has been "a privilege" to work with the Gumbi community to re-introduce lions onto their ancestral lands. "Their vision and courage has been inspirational and sets a real example of how a deep rural community can use its land assets sustainably to stimulate local economic development," he says.

"The Somkhanda lion cubs demonstrate that it is possible to expand lion range in South Africa, through real grass root conservation efforts, rather than the immoral and unethical approach adopted by South Africa’s lion breeders, who argue that they breed for conservation, yet the reality is that they simply breed for profit,” adds Venter.

MUST-SEE: #ShockWildlifeTruths: American trophy hunters condemn South African canned lion hunting

The birth of the cubs is a true success story around wild lion and their translocation to one of the only community owned reserves in the country. (Photo: Pippa Orpen)

Nathi Gumbi, a member of the Gumbi tribe and Wildlands Strategic Manager for Community Engagement says the female lion will now play her role as a mother and the male will guard his cubs and their territory.

"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,” says Gumbi.

Cuteness overload. (Photo: Pippa Orpen)

'Great example of lion conservation'

Pippa Hankinson, Producer of Blood Lions calls the Somkhanda lion translocation project a "great example of lion conservation in a natural area", and says it "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," stresses Hankinson.

Money-making enterprises often put on the facade of being sanctuaries, and sadly, tourists who don't know any better are led to believe that the animal interactions on offer as part of tourist attractions and safari packages, help to conserve wildlife. When cuddling a lion cub, bottle-feeding one, or going on walks with various big cats, you’re indirectly funding the canned lion industry. 

MUST-SEE: #ShockWildlifeTruths: Lion cub petting industry lies you need to stop believing

"When visiting South Africa, one cannot surpass the incredible experience of seeing lions roaming free in the wild, as opposed to seeing them in small enclosures with no possibility of ever leading the wild lives they were born to live," says Hankinson.

"There is a rapidly growing global movement away from all forms of wildlife interactive tourism, and this can be measured by the support of the Blood Lions 'Born to Live Wild' tourism campaign and pledge,” she adds.

With World Wildlife Day around the corner, why not sign the pledge in celebration of this important day. There are many other ways for locals to celebrate, including throwing "wild themed parties", visiting sanctuaries and making donations to organisations that help endangered animals. Click here for more ideas.

ALSO SEE: World Wildlife Day: 5 Ways to celebrate our Big Cats on 3 March

Venter also thanked donors and partners for their support in making the Somkhanda translocation possible. The public can also contribute to enable a secure home for this pride of lion. To donate or potentially Adopt-the-Pride, click here or e-mail

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