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From near death to hunting fit and having cubs

Eastern Cape lions complete the full circle of life

The original article was written by DispatchLIVE and can be found here.

They were orphaned and almost died‚ then rescued and taught to hunt by following a Toyota Land Cruiser.

Now two lioness sisters have completed the circle of life by giving birth to cubs‚ all four of which are being raised in the same pride.

“The process of bringing these cubs up has been the highlight of my conservation career‚” said Gerhard de Lange‚ reserve gevneral manager at Kuzuko Lodge in the Eastern Cape.

Kuzuko announced on Friday that the second of the two lionesses‚ named Nicka‚ gave birth to two cubs eight weeks ago.

Her sister Angel’s cubs were born 14 weeks ago after being fathered by Sylvester‚ the lion given a home at Kuzuko after twice escaping from the Karoo National Park.

De Lange said Nicka and Angel were born in nearby Addo Elephant National Park in the winter of 2014‚ but their mother died that December from a suspected snake bite and the cubs disappeared.

Weeks later‚ a field guide found the starving and emaciated cubs and took them to a boma to recover.

“Their future was uncertain as it is against the conservation principles of SA’s leading conservation authorities to raise wild animals in captivity‚” said De Lange‚ who agreed to find a way to raise them without any human contact.

“We needed to find ways to encourage their natural instincts without interfering with them‚” he said.

De Lange used his vehicle to get close to the cubs without directly engaging with them‚ and they soon began treating the Land Cruiser as a member of their pride and started hunting with it.

The reserve manager began by encouraging them to chase mice‚ rats‚ monkeys and guinea fowl‚ and when they were 18 months old the lionesses caught and killed their first kudu bull.

“The amazing thing is that they still follow this hunting behaviour now as adults and they are completely self-sufficient and 100% integrated into the wild‚ where in the beginning their future was completely uncertain‚” said De Lange.

Once the cubs were independent they were introduced to Sylvester‚ who was given a home in the 15‚000ha Kuzuko reserve in May 2016‚ and shortly afterwards another young male‚ Fielies‚ was introduced to the pride.

Sylvester and Angel had two cubs in June and Fielies and Nicka added two more in August.

De Lange said on Friday: “These four special animals who make up the Sylvester pride all had no future ahead of them. Today we celebrate not just their survival but their integration into nature and their contribution to the circle of life as both lionesses are now mothers.

“The best part of it [is that] I cannot walk with them‚ I cannot call them and I cannot touch them – this is an example of a rare conservation success story and one we need to hear more of if we are to ensure the future of Africa’s wild lions.”

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