When you work in the African bush day in and day out, you notice very quickly that mother nature is one harsh reality. We often see injured, weak or sick animals and for an animal lover such as myself this is never easy. Of course we get over it by telling ourselves "that's nature". And indeed it is.
The photo above is the last image I ever took of this young male and at the time I had no idea that it would be. However I knew that it was coming at some point. When I first arrived in the Timbavati he was a two year old gorgeous young lion. He had a pride around him and two loving sisters that would prove their worth time and time again. However as lion politics would have it, his pride was dismantled almost over night when two young nomadic males moved into their territory and proceeded to drive the original pride male off, kill his mother and force his two aunts to flee to a new area. It didn't stop there and sadly this youngster sustained a major injury to his leg during the event. After this we didn't see him for weeks, we would see his sisters on occasion but never him. Until one day I responded to a young male lion sighting. Upon getting there my heart sunk, there he lay basically skin and bone and in the direct sunlight on a hot day, something very strange for a lion to do. It was a sad sighting and I was convinced he wouldn't make it through the night. This was a hard thing to explain to my guests. However later that day I heard that two females had joined him out of the blue, his sisters had returned for him! Later that night the girls made a kill and the next morning we went to have a look and this is when I took the photo "Survivals Eye" which can be found in my portfolio. I have never seen a lion eat like I saw him eat that day. After this his sisters never left his side and we began to notice that his leg was recovering and he started putting proper pressure on it again, we started to get hopeful. Sadly A few weeks passed without seeing him or his sisters and when eventually they were seen again, his leg looked worse than ever. Over the next 8 months he struggled with it, all the while his sisters were keeping him feed and waiting patiently for him to catch up when they moved as well as keeping themselves off the radar as far as other lions were concerned. His leg slowly began to shrivel as he lost all muscle tone and we began to realise that his death was inevitable. He did start putting pressure on it once again a few weeks ago and I even saw him run, although slowly, at one point.
He was killed last week on the southern property of Taiwane, as finally the two older males caught up to him and finished what they started. In truth I never lost hope for him and I really enjoyed seeing him when we did. He was a gorgeous lion. However this is the nature of the African bush. A silver lining is now that his sisters do not have to keep themselves hidden and moving, they have begun to settle and roar in the east of the Tanda Tula property and already other males are starting to move in. Sometimes the birth of a new pride requires the death of an old one.