The Sand River pride is the largest group of lions we currently see at Lion Sands – and a personal favourite of many. They are beautiful lions in great condition, and with several cubs, they are always a magnificent sight.
The Sand River pride made their first appearance here about three years ago. At the time, the group consisted of five females and one young male, together with the two Toulon Males. Then, in 2016, the Toulon Males were pushed out by the five Mantimahle Males, who took over the pride. One of the Toulon Males was confirmed dead, while the other wasn’t seen again. The young male left – he wouldn’t have been tolerated by the new dominant males. He moved into Kruger and has been seen in the southern part of the park. As a lone, nomadic male he has a long road ahead for survival.
Following the takeover, the Sand River pride’s females mated with the Mantimahle Males. The two younger females and one of the older females all fell pregnant and produced four cubs each! All twelve cubs were seen together from a very young age by guests and guides on safari. Unfortunately, in the last year, a cub from each of the first and second litter has died, leaving 10 cubs.
One of the older females also died in early 2017, and one of the Mantimahle Males has since split from the other four. This has left a pride of four Mantimahle Males, four females (two about five years old and two between 12 and 14), and 10 cubs between seven to 14 months old.
But considering few cubs survive to adulthood, due to predators and other factors of a harsh life in the bush, this pride is doing well in nurturing them. With a mighty coalition guarding them, a healthy bloodline and lion-perfect habitat, we suspect these cubs will continue to thrive here.
We look forward to watching them, and sharing with you their progress and that of the rest of the pride.
Words and photos by: Mark Winckler