I know it's not Mother's Day yet, but I've already chosen the Mother of the Year here at Harnas. The lioness named Simba and her mate Macho (probably the largest male on the farm right now) are the proud parents of not one, not two, but THREE litters of FOUR cubs each in the past two years.
That's TWELVE for those math-challenged people. Clearly, it's happy marriage between Simba and Macho.
It also helps that it only takes 110 days from conception to birth for a lion. Like house cats, they can breed quickly and often. Most of the time at Harnas, cubs are removed from the mother when they're born because the male sometimes kills them to bring the mother back into heat. With lions so endangered, that's a tragedy that needs to be avoided.
The four male lions known as The Brothers were the first litter, but as I wrote once before, one of them died. They're less than two years old.
Then came the litter of four siblings we call The Babies--a sure misnomer these days. The litter has two males and two females.
Then came the litter of four that Martha, seen above, came from--I think 2 males and 2 females again. Only Martha is tame (and that's not exactly accurate either, since she's what you would call a moody girl. Yesterday she tried to eat my head, but she only got a fistful of my hair.).
The other three cubs are still with Simba, and visitors get to see them every day on the morning feeding tour. Macho is always waiting at the fence for his morning meat, so Etosha, the guide, feeds him first to keep him busy while he feeds the mom and cubs.
The mother and youngsters usually aren't waiting at the fence, so Etosha calls them. It's a wonderful sight to see Simba moving toward us through the grass with her three cubs scampering after her, jumping on each other, and wrestling their way to the fence.
The three are getting big now--not the size of their mother yet, but certainly twice as big as when I first got here at the beginning of January. They're still kids, though, and love to play with each other and their mother. Simba is a great mother. She lets them "attack" her and even steal her food. Their welfare is her first priority.
And for those of you who are worried about this fertile mama, she has an implant now to keep her from getting pregnant again. Macho seems to have accepted the babies for now and hasn't hurt them. We keep a close eye on them, though, because the behavior of males--even the father of the cubs--is unpredictable.
So here's a clip of Simba and the kiddies enjoying their meal. Notice the cub who steals his mother's food at the end and prances away with his prize. (It's half a donkey head, for those who are wondering. That's nature.) They maybe bigger now, but they're still adorable. Wouldn't you love one in your house or back yard?