This is the herd of Nsefu and its newest members – six cubs. They eat together and they play together all except one who lags behind, the misfit – this is his story.
He is the smallest and the most vulnerable. Surrounded by assassins and other lions. Their family is the only thing that separates them from a world of violence.
Lost and scared, the smallest puppy faces rejection and adversity. His only hope is in his determination to survive.
The lugano river is in the heart of the south luangwa national park in Zambia. Its dry and it hasn’t rained for six months. Next to the shore the herd lives in being a family of 20 lions among them six puppies, children of two sisters the puppies have personalities.
Different personalities, one is playful others aggressive. These are the male twins, a couple of weeks younger are four more males. One is smaller, holds back. Some cubs get more nutrition in their mother’s womb.
This little misfit runs the risk of being kicked out of food by his stronger brothers and stay even further behind. Male puppies need to forge friendly relationships that in age adult will transform into coalitions to new found herds.
Playing in a group is essential for their future. The older twins are the ones who plays their favorite games, chases and fights they are getting stronger. The misfit is missing the chance. Puppies need to forge bonds.
One of the twins approaches the puppy, withdrawn at first the poor thing is scared.
Although he tries it, he has a hard time integrating himself into the gang.
As the dry season progresses the buffaloes approach the few streams and gaps remaining around the river and the hyenas are behind.
If the leopards they find the puppies they will kill them. Keeping them alive is a difficult task for mothers and 9 out of 10 hatchlings die in the first two years of life before reaching size enough to fight back.
Night is the most dangerous time and mothers have a hard time convincing their unruly puppies from hiding and staying hidden. Mothers can’t keep puppies, they are the best hunters in the herd and you need them elsewhere.
Lions hunt as a team, they run into herds of impala hoping to find some weaker member being sick or injured.
In the African savannah speedy antelopes are ready to dodge. Cheetahs, buffaloes are like slower but you need hunting gear complete to shoot down one.
Few hunts are successful. Buffaloes end up half miles away. While the females hunt, the two brothers roar to proclaim their dominion over this territory of 40 square kilometers and demonstrate their strength to rival lions.
Their roars also intimidate other predators especially hyenas. The clan lives in a lion-proof den. One stays to babysit while the rest of the clan goes hunting.
Lion cubs have no one to watch over them. Amid so much fuss they can panic and scatter. Something very dangerous while the resident leopard is out there hunting.
It moves so stealthily that neither impalas nor focus are capable of detecting it .
Leopards and lions are rivals and both attack each other’s young always. There are occasion in the cool of the night hippos come out of the river to graze raising a cloud of insects for bats.
At dawn hippos leave the bustling plains in search of the safety and freshness of the river.
The little misfit is in hiding alone. It has been a busy night, the other five cubs have scattered, two of them are in the middle of no man’s land, a very dangerous place.
The two mothers have gone out to look for them and they have found the male twin, his mother leaves him alone on the shore and leaves to the rescue of his sister and a younger cousin.
They’re halfway to another pack’s territory luckily there is no sign of the neighbors, and brings them back safe and sound.
Puppies can easily get lost in the dark and end up missing. Curiosity and courage can get them into trouble. All the puppies are located, they have lived their great adventure and learned the lesson; all except one, the little loner who just stayed where he was.
They left, the older puppies play a new game consisting of checking the endurance of the two adult males but the little misfit wants to make friends and also gets closer to the big ones.
Males they are your best line of defense and you should befriend them.
The sign given as usual, he’s ignored so little misfit decides to go back to his mother for milk.
Late for breakfast, teens finally show up. They’ve been around all night making a fight. The little cub is coming up to the teens he obviously wants befriend but this gang is about to reach maturity, its dangerous. The instinct of a teenager is very fickle and unpredictable.
The herd monitor the presence of intruders make regular stops and slept so much of the day. Little misfit moves to cuddle with his mother but she grunts.
It may be reprimand for walking away or warning. In a resting area are the remains of a little antelope the older cubs begin to eat meat, in this case the works of a capture stolen from a leopard.
They are already about three months old and Above all, it helps them practice developing their hunting instincts and gradually change their diet from milk to meat.
The loner only needs a little trust to join the others and catch up.
Mothers share the task of breastfeeding all young, its called ‘la or suckling but six cubs are a lot of work. Each lioness only has four nipples and puppies always want to nurse together.
Mothers end up rising. Feeding together is important so when the males grow up they will have to know how to form a coalition and conquer a territory. That’s why the relations of friendship forged and shared are essential.
After fighting for food, they spread a little more in the fight just for fun.
The little misfit is excluded from the game.
Teens play too but their games are harder.
The misfit puppy is used to being alone. The herd walks away, his mother his brothers and cousins, even the teenagers all have forgotten about him.
When the adult lions leave, the other animals relax a little and are curious about the lonely lion cub. Too late, he realizes he needs his pack and misses his mother. Alone and lost, calling for his family is not a good idea others might hear.
Even hippos kill puppies from time to time they are herbivores but that does not mean they are harmless.
The little misfit does not lose his nerve, He is lonely by nature.
Amid the silence the beings of the night arise a scary hare of African savanna the film mix is prime of the mongoose.
And someone much more dangerous; the resident leopard. Among lions and leopards there is an ancient rivalry. One and the other kill the young of the opposite when they find them.
An instinctive reaction in animals stemming from extreme fear is to disable the body even losing consciousness, it’s called a syncope reaction.
About 20 meters from the cub the leopard stops.
The gineta approaches but she is not distracted she is absorbed in the puppy.
A hippo breaks the spell. Even if hippos hate Leopards, are not exactly a lifeline for a lion cub. They have eaten and have lost a skirmish with the hyenas.
The hippo appears to have saved the lion cub’s life by chasing the leopard away.
But right behind the teenager the puppy appears, seems to have found his pride. A harsh reunion.
When teenagers are away from the thick of the pride, with them runs much more danger than when he was alone they don’t stop salivating and with their hesitant pinches they cover the little mifit with saliva.
It’s a hunting instinct, their frustration could take its first victim. One of theirs.
Young males are shown every time, more hostile. The misfit is desperate to escape. It can only go to worse.
His mother has come out to look for him.
Two of the teens want to get their toy back.
The mother of little misfit attacks the two teens until they flee.
Very few cubs would have survived such a night but there is something about this little loner who manages to face adversity.
Caring for your helpless young is the most difficult challenge faced by many.
Animals parents dedicate their lives to the next generation. It’s in everything they do.
The little loner is back with the pride and has lived his own adventure. The other five cubs are already playing rough, are acquiring confidence and strength.
Their instincts were going to develop skills for adulthood through chasing and fighting and also forging links and establishing a hierarchical order in relationships.
Friendship for a few years they will learn through. The little misfit is delayed in his development but this morning also he has an added problem after his break.
He can hardly walk. The other puppies behave as if he was not there, as if he were already dead.
His hip or spine may have fractured or hurt by the teens or maybe just sore.
Weak. he returns to his mother for breakfast. She growls in warning. Something has changed.
The little one needs to drink milk to recover. He tries with his aunt but she abruptly rejects it too.
The biology of maternal love has an extraordinary exception sometimes a mother revolts against her hatchlings, abandon them or even kill them.
The scientific community is beginning to investigate how such a powerful bond and if there is something a little reject can do to recover .
His parent are gone, he can’t keep up and he’s alone again. He keeps looking for the family, he has courage and determination.
Finally he finds the trail of his pride but it’s not welcome. The little misfit is hurt and is getting weaker and his limp has gotten worse.
Now he is suffering from both dehydration and injury and can’t walk in a straight line.
He must go on, has extraordinary willpower and bravery.
He’s late to join the others in feeding, but the problem is not just one of opportunity. Every time she tries to suck, her mother and aunt continue to reject.
When a lioness detects that any of their cubs have a good chance of dying, it makes sense to focus on others; those with the best chance of survival.
It is hard to admit, but it is not strange that a mother abandons a child with health problems. The little one sits apart and lets the others eat.
The adults know a shortcut to get to a hollow where there is water. The little misfit is so dehydrated, walks in circles, has lost track of others.
Down on the riverbed, a crocodile appears in the water. Mothers know there is a danger of crocodiles and they roar warning and threat.
Weak and confused, the puppy is not given a warning that there is a safer route on the other side.
A puppy of yours is in danger imminent from an attack from outside probably makes you react differently.
The mother reaches out to her injured cub.
Finally a sip of water. The dehydrated hungry cub drinks some water.
After he has had some drink, he hesitantly approaches his mother for the first time since his terrifying night alone,
She lets him get close and allows him to suckle. But he is still stunted, is still wounded and still unable to keep up with the pride
But this time when the group leaves something happens. One of the cubs turns and waits for him.
Then one by one all the members of the pack turn and wait. They give him a second chance.
Hopefully this is just the beginning of his story.