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#WORLDLIONDAY PART 1: A Love of Lions – Our Team & Supporters

Welcome to our celebration of lions for World Lion Day on 10 August 2020!

Lions are such an incredible animal and a true icon of Africa, with their sheer power, regal presence, and striking looks. They are beloved all over the world and rightly so. They evoke a wide range of feelings, from awe to fascination, curiosity to wonder, and many things in between. They are a contradiction – an animal that can be so serene, yet so aggressive; so tender, yet so ferocious. These are only some of the reasons why they are so admired.

To celebrate this amazing animal on its special day, we asked our loyal supporters, esteemed colleagues in the field, leaders in lion conservation, authors, photographers and film makers to share their special stories and memories of lions, and give us an insight into their love for these dynamic cats. Because of the overwhelming response we have received, this special feature will be in three parts.

We hope you enjoy this 3-part series celebrating #worldlionday 🦁

© Drew Abrahamson/Captured in Africa Foundation

 

In part 1, we present our team and valuable supporters.

Alexandra Freiria Gomez, a wonderful supporter of our foundation from Spain, shares her thoughts on lions, saying; “Why lions are so special for me? The lion has forever been a symbol of strength, power and ferocity. The lion personality has an unmistakable presence of nobility.

A lion’s heels don’t touch the ground when it walks. Moving with the unruffled calm of a cat and the dignified gait of someone in command, lions have no need to walk or roar quickly since they´re never in danger of being ignored or marginalized.

But underneath all that, a lion is still a pussycat at heart. Who would not want to be a lion?”

 

“The lion has forever been a symbol of strength, power and ferocity”

~ Alexandra Freiria Gomez, CIAF Supporter

 


© Drew Abrahamson/Captured in Africa Foundation

Foundation Director and Director of our partner organisation, Pit-Track K9 Conservation & Anti-Poaching Unit, Carl Thornton;

I was born in the bushveld where the wind blew free and there was nothing to break the light of the sun.

I was born where there were no enclosures and everything drew a free breath.

I want to die there and not within these walls. Just like a lion.

© Drew Abrahamson/Captured in Africa Foundation

 

“Gareth’s books inspired me to do something constructive to help the Lions I love so much”

~ Miranda Paech, CIAF Australian Ambassador

 

Lorna King, another beautiful supporter of our work and owner/operator of Bairnsdale Wildlife Rescue in Bairnsdale (a small country town in Eastern Victoria, Australia), shares a special safari memory;

“Last year I went on a trip of a lifetime to South Africa. Whilst there I stayed at a Safari Lodge and one of my dreams came true. As I lay in bed, for three consecutive nights I heard a lion vocalizing. He sounded so close to the accommodation, I may have spotted him if I have got out of bed to look. The next day I went on safari and we spotted a male lion. We were told that he was most likely the one that often roams through the grounds of the Lodge and the one I heard. What a thrill!”


Big male lion © Lorna King

Alana Aylmer, Captured In Africa Foundation Director, tells us of her encounter with a powerful lioness;

“In celebration of *Women’s Month*, I’d like to highlight this incredible female we managed to see in the Kruger National Park (Shishangeni Lodge – meaning ‘Place of Beauty’).

Just after dusk, staring out into the bush having a sundowner, we jumped back into the vehicle and continued our drive. (Before this, we found a mating pair of lions, the female in this story was being pushed away by the mating pair a little while earlier.) What transpired after that was incredible… Night came, and, in the distance, a big herd of buffalo were moving away from the river. Unbeknown to them and the 2 dagga boys lagging behind, she was not too far behind them. As a scurry in the dark sounded an alarm for us to follow, she not only managed to cunningly separate this buffalo from the herd but take him down as her kill and hers alone.

The next morning, we found her, proudly next to her kill, with a few black backed jackals and vultures around. She was so incredibly driven, fixed on her goal and willing to be one of the extremely rare single female lions to take on and take down a buffalo. We were overwhelmed to share that moment with her and bantered of the kind of mother she would make, what kind of leader she would be, what kind of everything she was and becoming.”

The lioness with her buffalo © Alana Aylmer

Caroline McArthur of England, an ever faithful supporter of our Foundation, shares her memories of the first time she saw lions. She says;

“My story had a significant impact on me. My mother had taken me to Windsor Safari Park [in England] when I was about 10 years old. We drove around and then we came across a group of sleeping lions. I was transfixed. Completely mesmerised by their beauty.

Later we finished up in the shop and I saw a poster with the most beautiful African sunset with a young lioness in the foreground, with the words – You observe a lot by watching. I bought it, put it up and can honestly say I looked into her eyes every day. I also learned to observe by watching too. That was it. That’s when it started and has never left me.”

© Drew Abrahamson/Captured in Africa Foundation

Captured in Africa‘s Sales & Marketing Manager, STROOP – Journey Into The Rhino Horn War Production Manager and Lion Advocate, Paul Tully;

“One of the most intriguing times on safari and images I took, was of the following lioness and her cub. The females of the pride had that night hunted a buffalo, of which they were feasting on early morning when we sighted the pride. The lioness’s two cubs were further away, when the lioness began to drag the buffalo carcass towards the cubs, the cubs approached and this one particular cub showed behaviour, which for me, highlighted just how socially & emotionally “in tune” and understanding lions can be with one other.

The cub didn’t just stride up and begin to devour the carcass, the cub subtly laid down, peering up at mum with a seemingly bated breath. Mum didn’t once look the cub in the eye, instead showing a relaxed behaviour with the cub. The cub then proceeded to inch their way towards the carcass. In a series of images I have, whilst the cub moved their mouth towards getting their first taste, their eyes not once moving away from mum – as if on tenterhooks of whether they were “allowed” to what or not. The more time moved, the cub realised that all was okay and they had that all important “permission” to carry on and and enjoy a good meal.

Moments such as this make you realise that there is more to these animals than what we see through their strengths and hear through their roars. How they behave within their socially dynamic groups, is hierarchical in the most socially accepted way, just like we humans have with our own families. Amazing animals.”

© Paul Tully/Captured in Africa Foundation

Foundation supporter Alessandra Cuccato from Belgium, shares her thoughts on lions and tells us of her experiences with some special lionesses, saying;

“The word lions, what does it mean to most people? We have had The Lion King, Elsa, Clarence and the horrible debacle that was Cecil’s death at the hands of a psychopath. Note that I am a biologist, and I know when to use the term psychopath in a purely biological context.

When I was a kid I grew up with Clarence and Elsa. Did they trigger my love for lions? Looking back I believe they didn’t. My first lion love was the maned lioness Martina. For some reason I identified with her and thought we were quite similar. We were tom girls, she-men, fierce, brutal, particular, to male standards ‘ugly’… and we both were not receptive to men. We led our lives protecting our personal heaven, guarding it from any intrusion from outside.

Then came Lady Liuwa. Around that time, I had grown up a bit, yet still went Martina style myself, but Lady Liuwa’s story and loneliness marked me. Lady Liuwa lost her whole family to poaching. And so did Mr Busanga. Both were innocent victims to the greed of us humans and our need to dominate any creature on earth.

I got involved in the protection of big cats around that time. But I still had to meet the lion love of my life… Fast forward to a cold and rainy November day in 2016, I was at Sabi Sabi in South Africa’s Sabi Sand. On that cold and rainy day, I met the most beautiful and inspiring lioness, Mandleve. Mandleve was the matriarch of the Southern Pride at that time, and she had 2 small male cubs. I instantly felt a connection with this old lioness. She was loving and caring but efficient, the way she was supervising her pride of 21 lions and the way she made sure everyone had a bite of the buffalo meal they had at the time. At some point she looked straight at me and our eyes locked. We both understood and transcended the universe at that moment, we both realized (she had known all along, I realized then) how we were both connected in this precarious world, and how we needed each other.

When I came back home I decided to do some research on that lioness who had inspired me so much. What I discovered was extraordinary, but it fitted that beautiful soul who had allowed me to spend 2 days in the presence of herself and her family. I learned that at some point her pride had attacked the only cub of another pride. Mandleve intervened and stood guard over the injured cub until her pride left. The cub died but Mandleve did her best. It confirmed what I had seen in her eyes. Her eyes were those of a being who was fully connected to our earth, her eyes were those of one who knew. Her eyes were those of one who knew hardship, struggle, love and compassion.

I have met many lions after Mandleve, and I have had some fantastic moments with them. But not one will ever be Mandleve. Mandleve was the one who looked into my eyes, and made me understand that I had to fight for her and her fellow lions. That moment we looked into each-other’s eyes will stay with me forever. I will always love you Mandleve.”

Captured In Africa Foundation’s Australian Ambassador, Miranda Paech, explains her special “lion story”, which she says “began as a small child, with being taken to see the film “Born Free”, the story of George and Joy Adamson and Elsa the Lion.

As a young man, author and conservationist, Gareth Patterson, worked with George Adamson at Kora and went on to dedicate his life to lions. He has written many incredible books about his life and experiences. Gareth’s books inspired me to do something constructive to help the Lions I love so much. “My Lions Heart – A Life for the Lions of Africa” introduced me to Drew Abrahamson, her Foundation and work with Lions & Big Cats. Through my association with Drew I am now on the path that I will follow for the rest of my life, assisting in any way I can with the conservation and preservation of this incredible animal.”

Gareth Patterson’s Book “My Lion’s Heart” © Gareth Patterson

 

“[The lioness’] eyes were those of a being who was fully connected to our earth, her eyes were those of one who knew.”

~ Alessandra Cuccato, CIAF Supporter

 

© Drew Abrahamson/Captured in Africa Foundation

Another amazing Australian supporter of Captured In Africa Foundation is Kelly Stewart, who tells us of a very special lunch break she had, sharing her “Treasured memories of the day I spent my lunch break with these special little cubs in the Serengeti. The whole pride was present with the mothers and cubs lying on the koppie (hill) and Dad was keeping a proud watch from his vantage point in the shade on the ground. He was making funny faces as a fly kept tickling his nose. I will be returning to Africa at some point in the future.”


Lion cubs in the Serengeti © Kelly Stewart

 

“I was transfixed. Completely mesmerised by their beauty.”

~ Caroline McArthur, CIAF Supporter

 

Passionate CIA Foundation Contributor Jane Alexander from Australia, tells of her two trips to South Africa to see lions, explaining;

“Being a lion lover for as long as I can remember, my dream was to see them in the wild. Three years ago, my mum and I made our first trip to South Africa with that single goal in mind. Little did I know, we chose a safari lodge with very few lions in the area. After five days and many hours of safari drives (and frustration), my dream finally came true when we came across a male and female together in the grass. It was amazing! But it wasn’t enough for me.

So last year, we went back to South Africa to try again, this time armed with research on where to best see lions. In the two years in between, we watched safari videos on YouTube, in and around Kruger, and dreamed that we would see lions there too. On one of our earlier Kruger drives, around Skukuza, we were on a main road when a lioness came charging out of the bush on our left. She was followed by a big male, two other lionesses and five cubs. The male disappeared on the other side of the road, but the lionesses and cubs came onto the road and wandered along in front of us. Then the big male came back across the road, causing somewhat of a traffic jam, as he had to weave his way through the safari vehicles.

It was just like what we had seen on all of those YouTube videos and it had finally happened to us! It was an incredible moment that I will remember forever. A real dream come true!”


Lionesses and cubs wander along the road in Kruger © Jane Alexander

 

We end with our Founder and Director, Drew Abrahamson, who concludes;

“Lions are the epitome of the African bushveld, Lords and Ladies of their land. Grace, strength, power, rugged… hard beauty. Faces that tell stories of survival in a world that has become obsessed with materialistic gain, instant gratification and less in touch with the wonders of our planet!

My lion work fell into my lap 17 years ago and it has become clear over the years that it is just supposed to be that way, although I have never thought too deep into the reasons, I just had to trust that what I was embarking on was part of my life’s journey. Little did I know back then that I would need to fight some of the toughest emotional battles of my life. Fighting for the injustices caused by man for a species that is so iconic, Lions, fighting to survive against all odds seems unimaginable. I mean, who doesn’t love Lions?

Each rescue or relocation has taught me lessons I would never have learned otherwise, ironically through these lessons I have learned more about people than I would have liked…but more importantly, it has taught me about myself, who I am as a person. Needing strength, courage and resolve are the last attributes I ever thought I would need to possess. Life is tough…but it is tougher for Lions, we cannot be half-hearted in our approach in doing what we believe is right by them.

With every life situation, we need to choose a path… make a decision on approach and stick to it. If it is your passion, your souls purpose you will have to fight like you have never fought for anything before because there are going to be hurdles along the way. It is difficult for me to lump all these years into a paragraph or two as each and every Lion I have relocated or rescued is etched in my heart and mind, fighting for each with that same fire in me… that same soul-passion. Life sometimes gives us second chances to right the wrongs, but right now… we don’t have the luxury of time, we cannot get to a place and sit with the questioning, guilt ridden words of ‘if only’…

Reading all these incredible stories from my esteemed colleagues, supporters and friends have put together…humbles me. It makes me realise that I am connected with these people because we all share a deep love for the African Bushveld and all the wildlife that inhabit its space. A deep love for our Lion – King of Beasts. It is not surprising really as when you gaze into their eyes (which you shouldn’t really do as it’s seen as a challenge & you will probably end up as supper) there is something that connects your spirit with theirs. I am grateful for all these people in my life who have parted with their knowledge, guided me & most of all inspired me to keep on fighting.

…I mean, who doesn’t love Lions?”


© Drew Abrahamson/Captured in Africa Foundation

 

If you can’t get enough lions, then you’re in luck… 🦁

Join us again tomorrow for part 2 celebrating #worldlionday “Heart & Soul”, featuring authors and conservationists who have regaled us with their amazing stories of lion rescues and encounters in the wild, and why it is so important that we all work together to save these special cats.

Don’t forget to join us on World Lion Day, 10 August 2020 on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram