So many great things have been happening for the program lately, and it’s such a joy to be a part of it. Here’s the latest!
With the recent move of four of the young cubs to Victoria Falls, the existing four sub-adult lions that were here were finally moved to Antelope Park. Two of the lions had already been retired from walks, and the other two, Phezulu and Pendo, were just retired on Monday of this last week. I went on that last walk, and while they were very good as usual, it was a relief to know that they were moving on to the next phase, which will be night encounters. They have been very successful day hunters, with about a dozen kills already, so I’m hopeful that they will transition into night hunting just as successfully. I had my ugly cry to see them go, with a private moment to myself to say goodbye to them through the fence in the afternoon before others arrived, the sadness tempered by my happiness to see them get the next chance in their development.
The small cubs are doing great, and well, aren’t so small any more, but to me they will always be The Littles. Today is the 6 month birthday for the older two females, Lila and Lalapanzi, and right behind them on May 17th will be Lekker and Liuwa, the brother and sister pair. All four are growing fast, playing with each other, interacting with the guides, handlers, and volunteers, and eating well. They get game meat these days, which they love, and so far in their young lives they’ve had impala, zebra, and most recently, giraffe. They’ll eventually have elephant, buffalo, and perhaps a few other types of game meat as it’s available. They are fed after their last walk of the day, so that they can enjoy their meal and have a nice rest overnight, and no matter how tired they seem after their meal time, they are always jumping around and ready to go running through the bush and explore the next morning. They started their very first client walks this week on Monday afternoon with a small group and did great, and the next morning brought a fully booked group, and they all did very well for still being such young cubs. Every day is a new adventure for them, discovering all the sights, smells, and sounds in the bush, including seeing the small river that runs through the park for the first time this week.
My role on the walks has been to help lead them at different times, particularly if we are changing direction; they are already following the scouts, guides, and handlers pretty well, so the transition is well underway. Lila continues to be the natural leader of the group, often leading the walks, with the other three taking turns following behind her, and she has been staying particularly close to me since the “Bush Rescue” event recently. She’s just a star. Lala’s confidence continues to build through time with her sister, and she’s still such a pretty cub, whom everyone loves, even if she is not yet enamored with the attention. Lekker is just the cutest little boy ever, and people get a kick out of him running alongside the girls, and lying on his back for belly rubs from anyone and everyone who will give them. And Liuwa… where to start… she’s just such a little peanut — very feisty, super independent, and while she’s the smallest, she’s also the mightiest in some ways. People love her spunk and adorable little face.
While I’m not on the community, research, or photography projects, all projects have some overlap, and it’s great to get to go out on the research vehicle once a week, and into the community, and to hear about the progress and updates on those projects from the volunteers. We exchange stories at meal times, and in the evening, with many laughs. It’s always a good time.
I’ve been doing more research into doing a safari tour at the end of my internship, specifically in Kenya and Tanzania, to see the Masai Mara, Serengeti, and Ngorongoro Crater. Being jobless and homeless is a bad combo for my expensive taste. I’m not really a camper, so the camping style tours don’t appeal to me very much, and the lodge safaris can get expensive quick, so I’m searching for the middle ground, trying not to obsess too much about the cost, and focus more on the experience. This really is why I’ve always wanted to come to Africa — to see those areas, and to combine that with a volunteer experience — so if I am able to do both, and then return to the States, well, that is pretty priceless…