Klaserie River Sands

Gone, but not lost: Liuwa after Sepo

Sepo and her playful cub in Liuwa Plain National Park, Zambia

© Heinrich van den Berg

Written by Kelsea Lee, featuring Liuwa Plain National Park where King Lewanika Lodge is located.

It is with heavy hearts that we must once more announce the loss of an important lioness from the Liuwa Pride. Just weeks after the passing of the famous Lady Liuwa, her second in command, Sepo, has passed as well.

In the years following Sepo’s introduction to Liuwa Plain National Park in Zambia, Lady and Sepo had managed to strike a delicate balance of power between themselves, with Lady contributing wisdom and Sepo contributing brawn. Together they had led the small but recovering Liuwa Pride to stability, giving hope to those working tirelessly to restore lions to the region.

Sepo the lioness in Liuwa Plain National Park, Zambia

© Heinrich van den Berg

As one of the first females translocated to Liuwa Plain, Sepo was named ‘hope’ in the local Lozi language. She lived up to that name, producing two beautiful litters of cubs – first two females and a male in 2014, and then two males in 2016.

A fiercely protective mother, it is believed that Sepo died in a battle with the most recently relocated male when he tried to kill her cubs.

Sepo and her cub playing in Liuwa Plain National Park, Zambia

© Heinrich van den Berg

This wasn’t the first time they had clashed, having a violent throw down when he first arrived. It may seem barbaric, this is actually normal behaviour for lions. Males want to eliminate the offspring of other males in order to replace them with their own, using their virility to establish themselves as the dominant male in the region.

Sepo's cub jumps on her in Liuwa Plain National Park, Zambia

© Heinrich van den Berg

Unfortunately, in her unending dedication to her cubs Sepo lost her life in a final battle to protect them. But her efforts were not in vain.

The most recent news coming out of Liuwa Plain indicates that not only are the two male cubs doing well under the care of their older sisters, but that one of the older sisters now has a cub of her own. So ‘hope’ may be gone, but hope is not lost. The Liuwa Pride will survive this loss, and continue to thrive in their ancestral land.

A regal photo of Sepo in Liuwa Plain National Park, Zambia

© Will Burrard-Lucas

Time + Tide

Time + Tide is an award-winning, family owned and operated collection of camps with over 65 years of history. We focus on conserving unique land and marine areas, making a positive impact on our local communities and offering you safaris of a lifetime. ZAMBIA Norman Carr Safaris - South Luangwa and Liuwa Plain National Parks Chongwe Safaris - Lower Zambezi Valley MADAGASCAR Miavana - Nosy Ankao

  • Mike D

    This is incredibly tragic news. The story of Lady Liuwa and her new pride was absolutely amazing. Sepo held the future for these lions but it sounds like hope still exists for the remaining offspring. being killed by a new male is a sad way to go but that is the life of lions. I hope to see updates on the lions of Liuwa so the legacies of Lady and Sepo can live on.

  • Maria Zsuzsanna Fortes

    Thank you very much for the fantastic photos and the news that is really tragic. I am so sorry for Sepo, I wished she would live just as Lady Leuwa did. Heartbreaking her death defending her cubs, just as a lioness can be. I would like to know if the cubs she was defending did survived and follow the others.

  • Shauna Kattler

    My heart is very heavy and extremely sad after hearing the news of Sepo’s death. It was just a month ago I found out of Lady Liuwa’s passing. I’m in utter shock.

    I became enthralled with Lady Liuwa’s story after seeing Herbert Brauer’s documentary, The Last Lioness. Her story is one of unimaginable resilience, remarkable skill, and incredible survival. What she endured and how she survived on her own for endless years is absolutely extraordinary.

    Her story etched into my heart. I followed it throughout the years and knew one day I just had to see her. My “bucket list” trip came true in November 2016 when my husband and I spent 4 days at Mtamanene Camp in the Liuwa Plain. Shortly after we arrived at camp, we went on a sunset drive and we saw her for the first time. She was lying down in a clump of bushes but soon got up to take a short stroll only to lie down again. She was much thinner than I remembered seeing in pictures and the bridge of her nose was black, rubbed out so no hair grew. Her trusty female companion, Sepo, stayed in the bushes and to our utter surprise, we spotted 2 little cubs who were approximately 4-6 weeks old. We had no idea we were going to see any cubs so this was such a blessing! They were so tiny their eyes were still blue. We watched in awe as they wobbled around, climbing and nursing on Sepo. Sepo was very attentive and would gently nudge and lick them as they wobbled past her. They were very curious and soon ventured out of the bushes where we were better able to see them. Their little “chirps” let momma know where they were as she kept a watchful eye a short distance away. It was magical. I was in absolute heaven.

    We were fortunate to see Lady again but that was the last time we saw Sepo. Our guide said she was trying to keep the cubs hidden and moved them at night. We came across Lady 2 days later after a downpour. Her coat was dark from the rain and she was lying in the tall grass chewing on the remains of a carcass. Once finished. she got up and walked within several feet of our vehicle and went to drink from a pond. She drank and drank, only stopping twice. She must have drunk for 10 minutes and we were astonished a lion could drink that much. Our guide said in all his years he’d never seen a lion drink that long. After she finished, she let out several low bellowing chuff’s, calling out for Sepo.

    In a nearby Boma which we weren’t able to see, two male lions were going to be introduced to the females. We were told Lady and Sepo slept outside the Boma, awaiting their release. Their release happened shortly after we left which gave the males time to get acquainted with the cubs. To hear almost a year after our visit the males tried to kill the cubs (which is why Sepo died defending them) is so shocking.

    I’ve always said that Motherhood in the animal kingdom is no different than humans. What mother wouldn’t fight until death for her kids, and Sepo’s valiant efforts were no different. They cost her her life.

    I cannot express how honored and privileged I was to see Lady and Sepo and visit Liuwa Plain. I only hope Zambia Carnivore Program and African Parks can provide a monument to
    honor them in some way. She was the only reason I went to Liuwa. If it wasn’t for her story which Herbert so beautifully told, I would never have gone nor would I felt compelled to but am so thankful I did. My only regret is that I wish I would have went sooner.

    Because of the Last Lioness, her story will live on forever. She is a LEGEND.
    Live on Lady Liuwa and Sepo. Live on.
    You will FOREVER be remembered and missed.

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