It is the end of August as I write this, and all over the Okavango water levels are now receding. A few months back, during the peak of the highest flood levels in many years, I posted a submission entitled “Big water and little cats”. In it I described the situation that the local lion pride in the Jao concession found themselves in. One of the lionesses had four very young male cubs and was faced with the daunting prospect of attempting to raise them in this year of big water.
Having just returned from that same area, I am very happy to report the good news that the lions are still out there. I was fortunate enough to get to see them several times during the course of two visits, and their story is worth telling.
During May and June the two lionesses walked with all four young cubs through perhaps eight kilometres of shallow water, and marshy terrain, to reach a small, dry area close to Kwetsani Camp in the north of the same concession area. They then did the journey back to the dry area around the airfield, and back to the north again. Somehow, one cub went missing during an excursion to a nearby island. The lioness was seen moving to the island with four cubs, and returning a few days later with three. After that the lioness and her cubs vanished. None of the camps saw them for almost two weeks. Happily, she showed up another eight kilometres west of Kwetsani Camp with all three cubs intact. This must have been an arduous time for her, as the area that they crossed through is a network of deep channels, marshy plains and small islands. Somehow the lioness managed to coax her remaining three cubs through all of this to reach a drier area in the west, still in the Jao concession. The local name for this area is Hunda, and this is now where visitors from all the camps in the concession are getting to see the tough little family of “swamp lions”.
Despite the loss of the single cub, the remaining three male cubs are doing fine, and were well fed each time we saw them. In fact, they treated us to some wonderful viewing as they romped and wrestled with one another and with their adult sister, and clambered up termite mounds and fallen trees. Good news for everybody concerned, except perhaps the prey animals.