But the only outlaws in Kei Mouth are those who’ve escaped the city
to kill larger prey like a young kudu bull.”
When Sylvester arrived, they came several times to visit him
¿ the newcomer through the fence. Gerhard was convinced that one of the reasons Sylvester had escaped from Karoo National Park was because “he was physically threatened by the dominant males in the park when his sister came into season.”
Sylvester needed a coalition partner. Enter the fourth lion – Fielies. Born in Addo, son of one of the park’s largest territorial males, he too would almost certainly have been killed by dominant lions had he stayed. It is a risk many sub-adult lion males face after being booted out of their native prides. “When we released Fielies into Sylvester’s enclosure, the younger lion was clearly subordinate to Sylvester and very soon they started getting along extremely well,” says Gerhard.
Now that he has a coalition partner, Gerhard is convinced Sylvester will run no more but, before they tasted freedom again,
Fielies had some growing up to do. “Only once he started spray-marking and roaring did we know they were both ready.” (The old lions, Matt and Kalahari, had been retired to an area near Darlington Dam in Addo).
We were lucky enough to be at Kuzuko scant days after Gerhard had taken the decision to liberate them from the 200 hectare enclosure that had been their home for months. After devouring a zebra left out for them, they’d taken an uncannily direct path to the best hunting grounds in Kuzuko, on the grassy banks of a watercourse. Over four days they killed a kudu, a black wildebeest and a red hartebeest.
We sat quietly in the back of a game drive vehicle with two fascinated English couples from Essex, watching as a sated Sylvester lolled in the shade and Fielies the teenager, his growing mane in a messy mohawk, determinedly wolfed down more and more hartebeest.
His spotted belly bulging, Fielies swaggered over to his partner and they fondly rubbed cheeks. They lay close together, purring and grooming one another like domestic cats. Two-year-old Fielies clearly hero-worships four-year-old Sylvester.
The British tourists had seen lions before in Kenya, but were gripped by Sylvester’s soap opera back-story.
By then, he and Fielies had already met the lionesses face to face and had a small difference of opinion over a hartebeest.
The girls tried to take it, Fielies snatched it back, they attacked him and Sylvester came to his defence. Angel and Nicka, having lost their family at such a young age, had no idea it was best to defer to males. But they’re learning fast.
Later we caught up with the girls, lying in the shade, Sylvester’s scratches still showing. They were far away from the boys, having decided to give them a wide berth for now.
But what will happen when they come into oestrus? Will it be a happily-ever-after story, complete with cute cubs, parents and a happy godfather? We’ll all have to wait for the next episode in the ongoing real-life story of Sylvester & The Gang at Kuzuko.
Map reference F5 see inside back cover
ABOVE LEFT: A lion encounter with elephants near the riverbed, both species acutely aware of one another. ABOVE: Gerhard de Lange inside the cab of his vehicle. The lionesses have never seen him outside it. LEFT: Fielies, just like a teenage boy, eats himself to an absolute standstill. He still has his cub spots and his mane is only just starting to come in. He is now two years old and, if he takes after his father in Addo, might end up larger than Sylvester. BELOW LEFT: The lion guardian angel – Gerhard de Lange. BELOW: Kuzuko has other large cats. These male cheetahs, coalition partners, originally from Amakhala Game Reserve, also in the Eastern Cape.
ABOVE: Their stomachs bulging thanks to their recent hunts, Sylvester and Fielies relax in the afternoon shade.