When you work in an area for a prolonged period of time you become very aware to the goings on of the animals within your specific area, especially the territorial creatures such lion and leopard. It almost becomes like watching a soap opera or reality TV show, with each game drive turning into an episode of pure unscripted drama.
Like any TV show you start to become attached to certain characters and their story, in my case the Lion Pride known as the Hollywood’s quickly became my favourite and their story line always captivated me.
I think one of the reasons I fell in love with this pride was because they made my job as a guide very easy, never being more than a few km from camp at any given moment and I could always count on them to get me out of a hole if I ever had a quiet game drive, although to be honest, in the South Luangwa that is a very rare thing indeed.
Another reason, and probably the main factor as to why I followed their story so closely was the constant drama that surrounded them. The two males that held power over the pride where, magnificent specimens. As well as the Hollywood pride they also reign over another pride on the other side of the Luangwa river as their territory covers a vast area, big enough for multiple prides to exist in. However, the two sets of females did not tolerate each-others company, which we discovered on a number of occasions when the males tried to integrate both sets of lioness at kills made on the boundary of each Prides territory. Not only did the females turn on each-other, as would be expected but both would turn on the males for daring to bring their mistresses to dinner, I am sure you will agree, very soap opera like indeed.
On one game drive in late September, after a rare, quiet afternoon, I was making my way back to camp on a road that ran parallel to a lagoon that always proved to be productive and one I always kept in my back pocket as an insurance policy in the event of a quiet drive.
I was approaching the junction of the lagoon road and the main road to camp when I heard snarling coming from the combretum thicket to my left. It was the unmistakeable sound of a lion scuffle so I swung my cruiser to the left and through a gap in the bushes. In the beam of the sport light stood one of the Hollywood females who had been missing for some time, snarling and growling at the others who were extremely curious and not paying as much attention to her warnings as they should be. We soon noticed the reason for the disturbance as under the snarling lioness stood two tiny cubs.
We had assumed that she had taken herself off to give birth when we noticed her missing and to my sheer delight we were right and this appeared to be the first time she had brought the cubs to meet the rest of the pride. The cubs had been kept away in a den for the first few months of their lives while they grew strong enough to withstand the rigors of pride life with much bigger brothers, sisters and cousins all intent on constant games of rough and tumble.
After a few minutes of snarling from the mother, she eventually relaxed and allowed the adults members of the pride to come and inspect their new niece and nephew. After the adults had greeted the new arrivals the younger members were allowed to come and get acquainted with their new family members.
After every member of the pride had taken their turn to greet the new arrivals the mother lioness carried the cubs deep into the thicket and then lay down to guard the entrance, making sure that the new arrivals were left alone to get some much needed rest.
The rest of the pride settled down around the thicket and we carried on back to camp. The Hollywood pride, once again had treated me to a very special insight into their life.