Lion Cubs Found in Samburu

Lion Cubs Found in Samburu

Paul Thomson

Samburu National Reserve has not had lion cubs since May 2006. This was a major concern considering the lion population here has been declining, according to lion researcher and AWF Charlotte Fellow, Shivani Bhalla.But in a place full of surprises, we received the good news that three new lion cubs had been found in the reserve.

I joined Shivani to locate the cubs, identify the mother, and check their health status. Shivani can read dirt like nobody's business. Where I see sand, she sees tracks and can tell how many different individuals there are, which sex, and roughly when they passed. So after several hours driving along the roads of the reserve, she had a good sense that the lioness and cubs were in a thicket of Salvadora bushes about a hundred meters from the river in a place called Hippo Circuit.

We killed the engine, stood out of the roof hatch, and listened. We heard rustling noises and soon three tiny cubs popped out from behind a bush. They chased each other, wrestling and biting. Pure kitten cuteness. Then the mother emerged and Shivani immediately recognized her as Nabo.

It's a great relief to see three healthy lion cubs in the reserve. Reserve officials were concerned that the dry spell of cubs could indicate a reproductive problem with the resident males; so this should dispel fears. And with lion numbers dropping in the area, new cubs brings hope.

The cubs are about 8-9 weeks old, which means they've only just been brought out by their mother. Lion cubs are born in well-hidden spots like these Salvadora bushes. Their eyes open at 3-11 days; they can walk at 10-15 days. The mother will keep the cubs hidden and leave them while she hunts. The cubs are often left alone for over 24 hours. But at around 4-8 weeks, the lioness will begin leading the cubs from their hiding spot to feed on kills. The cubs will be weaned at 7-9 months.

About the Author

Paul Thomson worked with African Wildlife Foundation in Nairobi for a year before moving to Washington D.C. Paul has worked at the Madrid Aquarium and at the Marine Mammal Center in the Marin Headlands outside San Francisco. He was born in New Zealand but grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. Paul received his B.S. in Wildlife Ecology and Management at the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment. He is a member of the Emerging Wildlife Conservation Leadership initiative. He has also contributed to a conservation campaign to combat the illegal trade of Asian pangolins. Paul enjoys photography, travel, hikes in the woods, music, and nyama choma.