The arrival of the Formidables

We are excited to kick off the new year by sharing an exciting update on the Tsau Pride! Two and a half years have passed over the COVID period, but while the world came to a standstill for humans, Nature in the Heartlands continued to flourish.

The White Lions in our founder prides were identified by their genetic integrity, whose direct ancestors were removed from their ecosystem in the late ‘90s. In the second step of the reintroduction program, these founder lions were bonded with wild, golden (“tawny”) lions from the greater system, to form ‘integrated’ prides.

Today, the Global White Lion Protection Trust has three prides composed of 8 different bloodlines of integrated white and golden lions, almost  all of whom originate from the Greater Kruger region. As an exception, one pride includes a bloodline direct from the Kalahari region, since a wild-born lioness, Tswalu  (from Tswalu Nature Reserve) was successfully bonded into the Tsau Pridfe through the carefully phased boma-bonding process which commenced in 2012.

The Global White Lion Protection Trust took this decision on the grounds of strengthening the regional genetic pool, given the risk of a population crash in the Kruger lion population due to Tuberculosis, which was especially prevalent at that time and still poses a significant risk.

If you look closely, you can see that Tswalu has what we affectionately call a “black thread” that shows through her golden coat – this is because she hails from the Kalahari, the endemic homelands of the black-maned lions.

Close up of golden lioness lying in dappled shade

Whilst the COVID period brought many hardships and challenges, it also brought an abundance of blessings and opportunities.

One of the most exciting surprises of this time was the birth of three gorgeous and mischievous cubs! We suspected that Tswalu was denning when we didn’t see her and Cleopatra  for a number of days, but picked up the signal of their radio collars in a dry riverbed. Respecting their privacy during this very sensitive and special time, we waited patiently (but eagerly!) to be introduced to the new arrivals.

Although their protective mother kept them hidden from us excitable humans, their fathers were invited to “babysit” while Tswalu and Cleo went hunting. Zukhara and Matsieng  twin brothers who have been inseparable since birth, have both been known to court the lionesses over the years. As a result, we don’t know which King sired these adorable cubs – but they share the fatherly duties equally, and the pride has never been more cohesive!

Finally, after what felt like an age of patiently waiting, Tswalu proudly introduced us to her three little ones. From the first moment we saw them, we knew that this generation of StarLions would be curious, adventurous, and immensely powerful – and were instantly known as “The 3 Formidables”!

Here is a recording of the very first time Tswalu brought the cubs out to be introduced to humanity!

The 3 Formidables stole the hearts of our entire team from day one: ever-mischievous and adventure-seeking, we watched them grow day-by-day as they kept Tswalu, Cleo, Matsieng and Zukhara on their toes!

These three incredible cubs, who have both the black-maned gene of the Kalahari and the white gene of the Timbavati region, seemed to emanate pure sunlight and embodied hope during a time when humanity was facing unprecedented collective distress.

Their names are ancient Nubian (Egyptian): Tsweli, Regna and Aphein – and reflect their strong yet sunny dispositions. The names of the two brothers, Tsweli and Regna, mean “Sunrise” and “Overhead Sun” respectively, while the little girl’s name, Aphein, means “Setting Sun”.

Although she never had cubs of her own, Queen Cleopatra was the most wonderful auntie to the 3 Formidables. We often found her and the cubs playing together, whilst Tswalu and the Kings enjoyed a break from parental duties!

Here you can see the cubs at Cleopatra’s dam – so called because it is filled with beautiful indigenous Nymphaea Nile water lilies. Since her passing in early 2022, the pride has often been found at Cleo’s favourite spots – clearly honouring and rejoicing in her memory.

As we watched the 3 Formidables grow, they seemed to embody their names more and more each day. Look at the adorable little tufts of mane starting to sprout on Tsweli and Regna!

We can’t wait to share more news about the remarkable Princes and Princess! Keep an eye out for updates on what they’ve been getting up to as they grow up in the Heartlands.

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