Tanzania: Serenegeti NP – Lion Cubs Overload
It was the last afternoon of our last drive on our last day in Serengeti National Park on the final day in Tanzania. And on the way back to the Lemala Kuria Hills Lodge we came into an insane sight – a large pride of lions with cubs. Many cubs! There were 3 female lionesses and 8 cubs of different ages, some super tiny and probably just a couple of months old. We spent two straight hours watching them – play with moms, play with each other, climb tries, and run around. Lionesses give birth any time of the year, pregnancy lasts 110-120 days. When they are first born, cubs are very small. Lion cubs are born blind with their eyes closed and their eyes open around seven days after birth, while the vision is still blurred for another week. They weigh 1.2–2.1 kg (2.6–4.6 lb) at birth and are almost helpless, they start walking at around 3 weeks old. Lion cubs are born with black spots, which eventually disappears as they grow older. Lion cubs, like humans, are born without teeth (they eventually get baby “milk” teeth that after with age replaced by permanent teeth. After about 8 weeks, the lioness may integrate her cubs into a larger pride. Pride lionesses often synchronise their reproductive cycles and communal rearing and suckling of the cubs who suckle indiscriminately from any nursing females in the pride. At around 6-7 months old cubs are weaned off milk. Cubs play with each other and lionesses and slowly learn the skills. It takes 2 years for lion cubs to learn the hunting skills, and 4 years to become fully independent.