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Two lion cubs have been sighted in Liuwa Plain National Park in Zambia, marking the first birth of lion cubs in the park for over 10 years.
The cubs were born three to four weeks ago to the protégé of the park’s famous lioness, known as Lady Liuwa. It is believed that this is the lioness’s second set of cubs and that she probably lost her first set due to inexperience. The father of the cubs is the park’s only male lion. The lioness has hidden her new cubs in thick bush, making it difficult to photograph them.
For more than nine years Lady Liuwa was a solitary, lonely lioness roaming the grassy plains of the park in search of fellow felines with whom to mate and hunt. She was the sole survivor after massive poaching and illegal trophy hunting wiped out the species in the park in the 1990s.
The story of how she turned to humans for companionship and how the park’s conservation team helped to find her a family was the subject of a wildlife film, screened on National Geographic TV in 2010.
Lady Liuwa’s protégé, the mother of the two newly born cubs, was one of two young females introduced from Kafue National Park in 2011. Her sister was killed by a snare in 2012 and she, probably traumatised by this event, ran away towards Angola. In a dramatic rescue mission she was darted, airlifted back to the park, and placed in a fenced boma.
African Parks, a non-profit organisation that takes total responsibility for the rehabilitation and long-term management of national parks in partnership with governments and local communities, took the decision to place Lady Liuwa in the boma to encourage the two lionesses to bond. After two months the two lionesses were released back into the wild and have since been inseparable.
Two male lions, which were introduced to Liuwa from Kafue in 2009, also headed towards Angola in mid-2012 and one was reportedly shot dead by villagers in Angola. His companion, who made it safely back to Liuwa is now the resident male in the pride and father of the two new cubs.
“We are overjoyed to have sighted the cubs and will closely monitor the new offspring to minimise threats to them,” said Liuwa Park Manager, Raquel Filgueiras. “The birth of the cubs will help safeguard the future of lions in Liuwa and strengthen the park’s tourism offering. It is an event in which all stakeholders including ZAWA (Zambia Wildlife Authority), the BRE (Barotse Royal Establishment), the Liuwa communities and the park itself can be proud.”