Mountain Zebra National Park-lion figh-Jacques de Klerk (9)-min

An inquisitive young lion is clearly no match for one of Mountain Zebra National Park’s impressive adult males. Especially when the king of the jungle is disturbed while courting. By Arnold Ras

Where? Mountain Zebra National Park

In the mix? Lion, lioness and three sub-adults

The Eastern Cape’s Mountain Zebra National Park might be famous for its cheetah tracking experiences and Cape mountain zebra, but lions not so much. Then in 2013 two adult bothers and one lioness were introduced to the park to help restore certain predator-prey functions. Soon after, in 2015, two more lionesses (sisters) joined the pride and cubs followed.

As this month’s photo sequence proves, visitors to Mountain Zebra can now look forward to some riveting lion sightings and interactions.

Wild Card member Jacques de Klerk arrived at the park as gates were opening. “We immediately headed for the plains. On our way up the hill, we came across an adult female and a male lion moving from the waterhole and across the road. As the lioness was constantly rubbing against the male, he stuck by her side. We watched them walking around and lying together for quite a while, but no mating,” says Jacques.

Three youngsters appear on the scene

While the male lion was doing his best to impress, Jacques spotted three sub-adult lions – one male and two females – in the distance. “They were trying to hunt black wildebeest, but did not succeed. Soon they turned their attention to the two adults. The seemingly peaceful situation soon took a turn when the young male decided to approach the adult male.”

The adult male quickly leapt up to defend his turf and headed straight towards the valiant young male – his mane still just a patch of fluff.

Mountain Zebra National Park-lion figh-Jacques de Klerk (8)-min

Mountain Zebra National Park-lion figh-Jacques de Klerk (7)-min

Mountain Zebra National Park-lion figh-Jacques de Klerk (6)-min

Mountain Zebra National Park-lion figh-Jacques de Klerk (5)-min

Pictures by Jacques de Klerk

The lioness comes to the rescue

The adult lioness was not going to sit around only to witness a now full-on brawl between young and old. “She charged, striking and biting the adult male. The impact from her initial charge was so hard that she dived the adult male right off the sub-adult, giving the youngster a gap to run for the hills.”

Mountain Zebra National Park-lion figh-Jacques de Klerk (4)-min

Mountain Zebra National Park-lion figh-Jacques de Klerk (3)-min

Mountain Zebra National Park-lion figh-Jacques de Klerk (2)-min

With the bewildered youngster now out of sight, the two sub-adult females retreated, keeping their distance some 100 metres away. “One or two more altercations followed between the two adults. The lioness was clearly aggravated.”

Mountain Zebra National Park-lion figh-Jacques de Klerk (1)-min

About the lions

Megan Taplin, park manager at the time of the sighting, says all three sub-adults are the lioness’s offspring. “They were still dependent on the lioness for food and so associating with her. The adult male lion was displaying behaviour typical of an adult male lion – chasing away the younger male who is about to become his rival for siring new offspring. The lioness was still protective of her offspring and reacted aggressively towards the adult male lion to protect her sub-adult cub.”

The lioness, a first-time mother, was introduced to the park in 2015 at about three years of age. Either the pictured adult lion, or his brother, could have fathered her three youngsters. “The three now sub-adults were the first cubs to be born in the park,” says Megan.