When Lapalala’s first lions were released onto the 48 000 hectare reserve in the Waterberg; it was a historic moment and a great accomplishment for a conservation project that has spanned over 20 years.
As the first guides at Tintswalo Lapalala, it’s been a joy to see them settle into their new surroundings and watch them grow.
The big male lion is certainly one of the most magnificent animals we have ever seen. He was brought in from the Kalahari area, a region known for its impressive males. With a flowing golden mane, piercing brown eyes and hardly a scar on his face, he has an aura that just emanates alpha!
The big male arrived at Lapalala with such striking beauty that we decided to name him Tlali, which means “lightning” in Sotho.
In general, the pride has been very mobile in the reserve over the last few months, as they explore the area and find the places that suit them best. We’ve been seeing them move further and further into the northern part of the reserve, but the lions have also spent a lot of their time around Tintswalo, in the central regions, which is fantastic for us. Many of the staff at this new lodge had never seen a lion before, and it’s been a mixture of amazement and fear from the team. All the early heart attacks have thankfully been avoided; and now everyone loves it when the lions are near the lodge.
The Kalahari, where the lions were born, is more open scrub and grassland, whereas the waterberg is much rockier. This change in situation does not seem to have stopped these wonderful and healthy creatures adapting to the dense bush, and they have already made a number of kills.
Our hope is that the big male will mate with the lionesses, and we may soon have a few new additions to the Lapalala family. Cubs will certainly change the dynamics of the pride and ensure they remain in the area for longer as they create a territory of their own.
The general game in the area must have had a shock when they realised these huge new predators had arrived. It seems like the plains game have started to change their behavior as they become more aware of their new nemesis.
The lions have also been doing some strange things: often cautiously approaching rhinos, which is very unusual. Perhaps they did not come across too many of these giant herbivores in the Kalahari. Rhinos are large and powerful, and not quite in the range of the lion’s hunting ability. It’s been quite amusing to watch them try their luck.
All in all, we are extremely excited to see what else the lions get up to in their first year on Lapalala; and hopefully we will see our first set of new cubs very soon. We are really looking forward to keeping everyone up to date.