I went on a game drive at a local game reserve recently. We had a visitor from Australia and we thought she might appreciate some time in the bush seeing some wild African animals.
About an hour into our drive, we saw an elephant in the distance and our ranger / driver headed off to find it. Suddenly, we saw a white lioness in the bush to the right of the game vehicle. She stopped, took a look at us and then disappeared quickly into the thick bush. We sat and waited a while to see if she would return.
As we waited, our guide saw an adolescent lion cub coming from the other side of the vehicle. The guide mentioned that this lion was one of 4 cubs and that the female we had just seen was probably their mother.
The young lion was sniffing and following mom’s scent but seemed to become quite distressed when he could no longer find it. He went off down the track behind the vehicle, sniffing the ground and the air as he walked. After about 200m, he turned around, apparently having lost the scent altogether. He made his way back towards us, still sniffing. He bypassed the vehicle and then disappeared into the bush along the same path that he had appeared from.
We sat patiently, wondering what would happen next.
A few minutes later, we saw him coming out of the bush again, along the same path, but this time with his 3 siblings. One-by-one, each sibling came out in front of the vehicle, following the first cub. The first three were also white lions and the 4th was a normal tawny lion. The crossed over to the other side of the track and circled around sniffing for mom’s scent. After a few minutes of pacing around, they re-grouped and paused to look at us. Then they obviously decided to stay put and wait for mom’s return as they settled down in the long, dry grass.
We never found out of mom did return with food and we did not see her hunting either. All we can hope is that she had some success as her adolescent cubs looked like they would need a awful lot of food!
What could be more of a delight (certainly not an everyday delight!) than seeing these magnificent creatures living freely. We were so fortunate to see these cubs and their mother. The white lion is a protected species and there are not many of them living freely in the wild. Our guide pointed out that they are not albinos, rather there is a recessive gene in some normal tawny lions that produce white lion cubs. You can read more about them here.