Tuesday, 15 November 2011

12th November – The Post You Have All Been Waiting For: White Lions Galore!!!

Photo of the Day
Jacaranda Pride's new white lion cub!
Morning Drive
(Shadrack and Chad)
6 x lions (Jacaranda Pride – 2 lionesses, 3 tawny cubs, 1 white cub) – Umbabat
3 x lions (Xakubasa Pride – 1 tawny male and 2 white lionesses) – Argyle, Argyle Dam
1 x breeding herd of elephants – Argyle, Argyle Dam
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Argyle, Argyle Dam

Afternoon Drive
(Shadrack, Herold and Chad)
3 x lions (Xakubasa Pride – 1 tawny male and 2 white lionesses) – Argyle, Argyle Dam
1 x wild dog – Kings, Ridge Rd
1 x leopard (Xinopi-nopi male) – Kings, Ridge Rd
1 x rhino (Nhlangula male)
1 x breeding herd of buffalo – Argyle, Argyle Dam
4 x elephant bulls – Peru, Voel Dam

Daily Synopsis
Waking up from a restless night, occupied mostly about thoughts of this new white lion cub, I decided to take a chance and head into the Umbabat wilderness area in the hope that maybe, just maybe, this pride of lions with the white cub would still be around; they had eaten the previous evening, and with small cubs about, I didn’t expect them to go far.  The problem was it was an area that I didn’t know well, and I certainly wasn't going to send my tracker on foot to follow up on any tracks, especially for unknown lions with cubs!
I headed to the north-west, and even before we got there, the mercury had risen and we knew we were in for a hot day.  The drive to the area was quiet and didn’t bode well – we didn’t see much animal life besides impalas, but we did get to see a rare (for our area) black-bellied korhaan.  We also got to enjoy a sighting of a herd of wildebeest with five new babies!

Wildebeest calves and black bellied korhaan
Arriving at the camp on the property to check the area where a buffalo had died of TB and was going to be burnt to prevent risk of spreading the disease, we found a whole lot of vultures gathered around, but none of the Mahlathini male lions or old Jacaranda female that had been present the day before.

I went to tell the camp attendant that we were going to go and look for the lions, and he kindly offered to lead us to where the lions had been the day before, and so we followed behind him.  I was hoping, really hoping that they would still be there, but to avoid disappointment, I had resigned myself to the fact the chances were we would not get to see them. 
As we approached the area where they had been the day before, we found the remains of the impala kill, but no lions.  So, when the camp attendant’s hand point out the window to our left, I knew he had seen them...and then I looked in that direction, and there it was...a 2-month old white lion cub!!!
My first glimpse of the white cub climbing up a cliff face!

Wow, words can’t describe the sighting, so I won’t even try...instead, this myriad of images will let you know what my guests and I got to see!
At first, the cubs were climbing a near vertical cliff face to get to the mothers that were calling them on the top – the white cub and two others made it no problem, but one of the tawny cubs was not having as much luck, but persisted and managed to join the pride on the top.

Cubs joining their mom, a Jacaranda lioness, on the top of a cliff

I went around and relocated them, but the cubs moved off into the bush – being probably only the second or third vehicle they have ever seen!  The mother was lying in the grass, so we gave her some space and waited.  This gave me a chance to identify her as one of the original Jacaranda lionesses, and one of the so-called Jacaranda Four from earlier this year.  It is no surprise that she has a white cub, as she in fact gave birth to two on Ingwelala in 2006, and is the grand-mother of the white lions in the Xakubasa Pride – the question now becomes, who are the fathers? 
We suspect that it is most likely the Mahlathini males, and it was no surprise to me either.  My suspicion has always been that they broke off from the Ross Pride, and as the Ross Pride recently had a white lion cub (that sadly got eaten by another lioness in the pride in September), I assumed that there was a good chance that they had the same recessive gene.  This could go some way to proving that, and as they are now mating with the Xakubasa pride mothers, they could also potentially sire more white cubs from those females (I already suspect that one of them is pregnant) – in fact, being in their prime and a strong coalition, they have the potential to produce a lot of white lions over the coming years! 

Words cant describe how special this sighting was!!!
Anyway, back to the sighting, while watching the mother, the rest of the pride eventually moved to join her and embraced one another before getting up and moving back down into the riverbed below, so we returned to our original position.

There, in the riverbed, we spent quite a while watching and enjoying a once in a lifetime sighting as the four cubs moved from one lioness to another, continuously rubbing up against them and being as cute as could be. 

Even if they were all tawny, it would have been special, but to have only the fourth known naturally-occurring, wild white lion in the world amongst them was something neither myself, nor my guests, will ever forget!

As the morning heated up, we left them resting in the shade and went for a cup of coffee.  There was little else in the area, and so I headed back to the lodge.  On getting closer, I radioed Shadrack to ask how his morning was; he told me he had spent most of it at Argyle Dam watching a herd of buffalo, a large herd of elephants, and would you believe it, the other two white lions!!!  Yes, we had 75% of the white lions on our properties!

A once in a life-time sighting!

My guests asked if they could go and see the some adult white lions as it was their last drive, so with a bit of time to spare, we headed to Argyle Dam.

We found one white lioness sleeping in the road, but after driving a loop around to get a better position, we returned to find that she had been joined by her sister, and the tawny male wasn't far off.

The other Xakubasa Pride white lions - normally would have stolen the show were it not for the cub 15km away!

They were looking lean, very lean.  Not a great sign, nor was the large injury on the back-right leg of one of the white lions (as well as an injured eye).  They clearly hadn’t eaten for days, and looked in need of a good meal, and soon.

Injured white lion licking her wounds

Despite being very hot, they eventually got up and wandered down to the water for a drink before walking across the clearing to go and rest in the shade of a large weeping boer-bean, and we left them to it, spotting the breeding herd of buffalo resting in a mopane thicket a few hundred metres from the lions, and this set up my afternoon nicely for my new guests.

White lions at Argyle Dam

As the afternoon approached, the temperature remained at 40 degrees and we were in for a warm drive!  As only a couple of stations viewed the lions in the morning, they drew a lot of attention from the southern stations, and not wanting to jostle for position or queue for a sighting, I ignored the area for the majority of the drive, and went east to look for rhino.  Despite trying to track one down, we had no luck; in fact, besides a lot of impalas, we saw very little, even at all the waterholes!
Moving back to the central regions, I was informed of a rhino in our central region, and as it was the relaxed Nhlangula male, I headed over to see him.  It was a bit of a race as the only other vehicle was heading to the lions and didn’t stick with the rhino, so at the risk of missing out, we had to get there a bit quicker – not the way I like to do a drive, but the result was worth it, as we ended up having a very enjoyable sighting as he slowly fed, past a giraffe, towards a nice mudwallow.

Nhlangula male white rhino

Once at the water, he had a drink before taking a short nap, but food was calling, and he soon got up and continued feeding before we left him.

A drink and a nap!
I then headed back north to the lions, and as the darkness was setting in – not great for photos, but wonderful time to see them active.  Shortly before arriving at the lions, we found the big herd of buffalos spread out on Piva Plains feeding.

Buffalo herd on Piva Plains
Arriving at the lion sighting, we found them active as we had hoped and got to follow them as they set off looking for a much needed meal, but sadly none was forthcoming.  Once more, it became so apparent, watching them in the twilight, just how difficult it is for these white anomalies to blend into their environment!

Xakubasa pride in need of food so setting off on the hunt
We eventually left them sneaking off into the darkness and slightly angling towards the buffalo herd, and we went to celebrate an unforgettable day in the Timbavati with drinks at Lover’s Leap – they seldom come more special.

Young tawny male lion
We then returned to camp, not finding anything more bar waterbuck, impala and a lone wildebeest on our airstrip, and enjoyed a wonderful dinner reminiscing about just how amazingly fortunate we were to have seen such a special sighting today; I was still quite worried about the condition of the other two white lionesses though, and really hoped that they would manage to catch a buffalo under the brightness of the waning moon.
I guess we shall just have to see what happens tomorrow morning!


  1. Absolutely fantastic pictures! Thank you so much for posting them on my birthday! : )

  2. Chad, The photographs are just magical! You get such great shots! Thank You so much for sharing your wonderful world with us!

  3. Thank you for brightening up my day at work. The photos took my breath away. Truly spectacular!

  4. Totally amazing !!!-Thankyou for sharing---Made my Day !!

  5. These are just fantastic photos; thank you for posting them. I, too, hope that these lionesses will find a meal very soon so that they and the cubs may live!!!!

  6. Amazing drive !!!!

    Thank you for sharing Chad.

  7. That was a special sighting Chad, you had some very lucky guests!!!
    I hope the Xakubasa pride can catch something, man, they look thin! I also hope that the small white cub can stay alive longer than most, it is not easy for a cub (Especially if they are white).
    More white lions in one day than leopards :-). Amazing.


  8. Oh wow!!!

    Fantastic pictures.

    Sue and Andy UK

  9. Oh my goodness Chad!!!! What an amazing sighting and what a privilege to have been able to spend so much time with them! Certainly something most of us only dream about. Looking forward to more updates - and really hoping the older ones are able to make a kill soon.

  10. What an amazing morning drive! This was a perfect end to our stay at Motswari. Thanks Chad for the experience and the fantastic photos. Only thing missing is a good photo of some Egyptian Geese!!
    From a couple of your lucky guests.

  11. Thank you all so much for the amazing comments and views on this post - was super special!

    @alan and yuko! hello hello! i hope the two of you are well and had a safe trip back! just looking back at this blog reminded me of what a great time we had! also trust that tiger is enjoying all your photos and stories from africa! will be in touch but have a great day :)

  12. Chad, my dear friend and wildlife enthusiast, sent me your A-M-A-Z-I-N-G photos. What an extraordinary day. Thank you for taking the time to capture these special moments and for bringing them into our homes all across the planet.
    Rooting for the White Lions!!
    Cindy in Springboro, Ohio USA

  13. Thank you so much for the kind words Cindy :) i just point my camera,, the animals do all the work for me :) hope you enjoy following this blog, i update it daily with all of the photos i capture, so please feel free to share this page and keep on reading it!


    Chad Cocking

  14. I am still watching your blog:one of the best ones I ever saw about african animals.
    Just great!

  15. Chad, you have the best pics cause you have the best subject mstter in the perfect area. Thank you so very much for sharing.