Styx Pride Antics, by Noldy Nolden

Styx lion cubs crossing the Sand River, from video clip by Melanie Mayer

Styx lion cubs crossing the Sand River, from video clip by Melanie Mayer

At the break of dawn on a misty morning last week, we headed out in search of the Styx lion pride, which had killed a bushbuck in front of the MalaMala Main camp swimming pool the previous evening. After hearing the sound of what must have been these same lions calling from around Bicycle Crossing Hippo Pools (diagonally opposite the camp) we wasted no time in heading to the scene.

No more than five minutes away from camp, we found the lions lying on the sand bank at the Hippo Pools. Their heads were up, and their movements indicated a sense of anxiety. We could only count six lions before one of our guests noticed a lioness and three cubs sitting on the opposite side of the watercourse. It was apparent that the majority of the pride had crossed the river, but for some reason the lioness and the three youngest cubs were not prepared to follow just yet.

The seemingly stranded lioness and cubs were looking intently up stream, and soon the mother’s persistent deep growls gave away the position of a large crocodile no more than seven metres up the river.

In a flash, the cubs’ mother dashed across the water course. Her power took her right over the water in just three giant leaps.  Once across she turned and called softly back to the cubs, discretely beckoning them to follow. Her actions appeared harsh and cruel as the three cubs remained helpless on the opposite bank and it was not an easy swim for them. The main channel was deep, and with the crocodile watching closely a life-threatening situation had developed.

What initially was a shock to all of us in the vehicle led to a quick realisation of the tough reality these predators endure in the natural bushveld. The three cubs knew they had no option but to cross, just as their mother had demonstrated to them. It was simply a case of working up the courage.

The amazing video clip below has immortalised their courageous act. You will notice how weak the female cub is compared to her two brothers. She is the last to take the plunge, and needs a lot more time to make it to the safety of dry land, and her mother.

Thankfully, on this misty morning, this situation had a happy ending.

Noldy Nolden

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