A Pride to be Proud of – Cecil’s Pride
On the 1st July 2015 a beautiful majestic male lion, fondly known as Cecil, was tragically hunted and killed on the outskirts of Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. What followed was nothing short of miraculous as the International Community and Media reacted with outrage in what became one of the most controversial and talked about incidents in the history of Wildlife Conservation. Animal Conservationists, Politicians and celebrities, as well as your ordinary global citizen spoke out condemning the killing and the face of Wildlife Conservation started to change overnight. According to Wayne Pacelle of the Humane Society, Cecil had “changed the atmospherics on the issue of trophy hunting around the world.” In the last 6 months, following the death of Cecil, subsequent conservation measures and policy changes have been implemented across the globe in an effort to provide protective measures on a variety of species worldwide. It is evident that Cecil’s death was a defining and historic moment in terms of the protection of species globally.
Whilst the Global debate about the ethics and business of big-game hunting and Conservation methods continued, Cecil’s pride became a story of hope and survival in the aftermath. Immediate concern following Cecil’s death, was that his cubs would be subject to infanticide should another male take over the pride. It became evident early on that Jericho, Cecil’s coalition partner at the time of his death, would not be taking over the safe guarding of the pride and it was unlikely that he would be able to hold the territory from other younger males coming into the area. In fact, Jericho has largely remained in the Kennedy 1 area by The Hide safari camp, and soon after Cecil’s death partnered up with a young lioness called Cathy, and has subsequently had his own litter of cubs, bringing a new pride into the area near where Cecil was killed.
Cecil’s Lionesses however, have taken the necessary steps to ensure the safety and survival of their pride. Over the past few months, a young male from the Back Pan’s pride on the Wilderness concession, known as Bubesi, has expanded his territory to incorporate the Kennedy Vlei-Line and Somalisa Concession and has been sighted regularly moving between these areas which were once the territory of Cecil and Jericho. As a result and in an effort to protect their pride, Cecil’s Lionesses have moved extremely large distances over the past few months (sometimes up to 30kms) and have moved in and out of the Kennedy area, the Somalisa Concession and the Mbiza area whenever necessary to avoid conflict with Bubesi and his pride of 13. It has meant that from a very young age these cubs have been pushed to move large distances which will no doubt stand them in good stead later on in life.
A couple of months ago one of the Lionesses and one of the cub’s disappeared from the pride altogether and it was assumed by many that the lioness had found another male to mate with and that the seventh cub in the pride had died. However on the 16th January 2016, our Guiding Team at Somalisa along with some lucky guests, had the unique privilege of watching the pride reunite as all three lionesses and the 7th cub joined forces again for the first time in the last couple of months. The cubs all appear to be healthy and strong and the entire pride was playing and clambering over trees with excitement and contentment.
It is without a doubt a wonderful story of survival and hope despite adversity and our Team is overjoyed that the pride is now back together. We are certainly extremely proud of the three lionesses who have done excellent jobs in their roles as mothers and care-givers to protect their cubs and do whatever it takes to ensure their survival. The story of Cecil’s pride and their continued survival is certainly something that all Zimbabweans should be proud of. Our heartfelt thanks go to Brent Staplekamp and all the Professional Guiding Teams of the various photographic companies operating in the area who watch over and monitor the sightings of the Pride and update each other on their well being on a regular basis. We will continue to keep our friends, colleagues and guests updated on Cecil’s pride and their movements.