Wild Fron­tiers

South African Country Life - - Sumario -

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.

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