A new king and two queens…

Abelana Game Reserve’s three newest guests are settling in well and are being given the royal treatment, as befits their status! We recently welcomed a new lion and two lionesses to the Abelana fold, and they are currently in holding bomas until they are ready to be released on to the reserve.

Although the reserve already has lions, the intention of introducing the three newcomers is to diversify the gene pool and encourage the formation of a new pride in the reserve. The male comes from the Eastern Cape while the ladies hail from Pongola in northern KwaZulu Natal and have well established tree climbing behaviour in their DNA. They’re currently in adjacent enclosures so they can get used to one another but will be released together when the time comes.

“It’s important and very necessary to introduce new individuals into the lion population from time to time,” explains Abelana Safari Camp head trails guide John Fouche. “Even though we have 15,000 hectares here at Abelana, there is still a risk of inbreeding from our existing lions, so the addition of these three newcomers will help to reduce that risk and add a fresh dynamic.”

With numbers of lions dropping drastically across the continent due to increased pressure on their traditional habitats from human expansion and demand from the Far East for lion bones, it is estimated that there are fewer than 20,000 lions remaining in the wild in Africa. They are extinct in 26 African countries, have vanished from more than 95% of their historic range and are listed as “vulnerable” on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of threatened species.

“Lions are the only social big cat and live in prides of mostly related females and cubs. Dominant males fight to maintain breeding rights and territory,” explains John.

“It’s going to be very interesting to see where they head when they are freed,” says John. “We’ll be following their movements until they establish their new territory,” he adds. While it’s never guaranteed to see lions and other predators on safari activities , it’s hoped the newcomers will feature regularly on future game reports and that they bond and form a pride together.

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