After much speculation, a blurry shot from a camera trap and many days of searching with peeled eyes, Shire, the lioness, and her two cubs were finally spotted and photographed in the Majete Wildlife Reserve!
Majete Wildlife Reserve is home to Robin Pope Safari’s Mkulumadzi Lodge, and also to some very special lions. Shire is the lioness that was part of the Majete success story when she and two male lions were released into the reserve during its rehabilitation in 2012.
African Parks can confirm that Shire has recently given birth to two cubs. Brigitte was one of the excited visitors to Majete who was lucky enough to be one of the first people to actually see these little lion cubs. She shares her experience with us:
“My husband, Mike Guest, myself and our friends Amy Cain and Dom Benatar had booked to stay in Majete for the Valentine’s weekend. Mike and I have been here a while, but Dom and Amy are new to Malawi and it was their first time in Majete. We had already had a pretty exciting time as the night before on our game drive we were charged by the largest bull elephant I’ve ever seen – and I’ve seen thousands of elephants over the years!
So at about 10am on Sunday morning we headed for our boat ride, talking about the elephant charge, and thinking that was probably going to be the highlight of our trip. At the Kapachira Falls turn off we were flagged down by a family who told our driver, Jimmy Chikombe, that they had just seen the lions! They said that they were in the river bed just after the Mvuu loop turnoff and that they were very difficult to spot so we needed to look carefully.
Jimmy turned to the four of us and asked ‘boat ride or lions?’ Easiest decision ever! So off we raced (safely, of course) to find them. We eventually got to the river bed and drove really slowly across, everyone’s eyes peeled, staring hard at everything…but no lions could be seen. Jimmy thought perhaps they had moved closer to the river so we turned onto the loop and doubled back alongside the river, peering around each and every bush and tree hoping and praying to see lions. Still nothing.
Jimmy said we would try the river bed again in case we missed them, so off we went. This time we stopped and pulled out the binoculars. And there they were! What we had originally thought was a rock in the bushes was actually one of the males lying down! We drove onto the river bed towards them and eventually saw the whole pride – two males, three females and two cubs. One of the females quickly took the cubs off a little further into the bush while the other two kept an eye on us.
It was amazing! Everything was completely silent, except for the mad clicking of cameras, and the level of tension in the vehicle was incredible. It got a little bit more intense when one of the males got up, ambled across the river bed, and lay down on the other side – we were basically surrounded by lions. We quickly forgot about that, though, when we spotted the cubs peeking through the bush, trying to get a look at us as much as we were trying to get a look at them! One brave cub eventually crept a bit closer, but still stayed behind the safety of one of the females, staring at us from around her shoulder. Jimmy told us that this was the first time the cubs had been seen, and that we were very, very lucky.
Eventually though the females decided that they had had enough of us and got up, herding the cubs away into the bush and out of sight. We reluctantly reversed and continued with our boat ride.”
The Majete Wildlife Reserve in Malawi boasts one of the most amazing conservation success stories. The area was granted protected status in 1955 but then suffered from relentless poaching during the 1980s and 1990s, leaving it all but barren of wildlife until the African Parks Network and Malawi government stepped in to help in 2003. Through their joint efforts, Majete began to thrive again and, following the reintroduction of lions to the area, it became Malawi’s only Big Five park in 2012. It is therefore always such a privilege to see these special lions and how they are thriving in the reserve, especially when it’s two adorable little lion cubs!