Cubs watch lioness as she pulls waterbuck out of the reach of the crocodile

Cubs watch and learn

The two lionesses featured in my earlier blogs were great mothers, as well as accomplished hunters. The lionesses gave birth to numbers of litters during their lifetimes. Their cubs learned valuable lessons from their moms, allowing many of them to survive and to become successful hunters as adults. Indeed, many of the lionesses’ offspring are still living and hunting in Chobe National Park and their daughters have given birth to offspring of their own.

Some of the most important lessons learned by growing cubs are how to hunt and how to deal with rival predators. When the cubs are very young, the mother hides them in dense scrub bush away from the pride and stays with them until they are old enough to be introduced to other members of the pride (around 1-2 months of age). After the cubs join the pride, the mothers will still hide them until they are old enough to follow in the hunt. If more than one female in the pride has young cubs, one lioness will often stay with the cubs to protect them. (see pictures below). After a successful hunt, the lionesses will retrieve the cubs and bring them to the kill to feed. Cubs are very vulnerable to being killed by other predators or male lions.

The main picture accompanying this blog features the lioness in my blog “My favorite lioness” on May 29, 2019. I am returning to this fight between the lioness and the crocodile as an illustration of how cubs learn by watching the adults in the pride. Notice how these cubs are paying attention to the competition between the lioness and the croc. They are learning as they watch the lioness struggle to pull her kill out of the water and away from the persistent crocodile. What are three valuable lessons that they are learning in this example? 1) How to prevent a rival predator from stealing your kill. 2) How to avoid getting hurt in the process. 3) Beware of crocodiles!!

The additional pictures below illustrate how lion cubs are hidden and protected when they are young.

Lioness “babysits” the small cubs at scrub bush den
These cubs could be the same cubs as in the previous photo because the photos were taken a year apart and in the same area of the Chobe National Park. The cubs here are waiting for the adult females to return from the hunt. The den entrance is behind them.

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