It wasn't the time we expected to say goodbye, but on 30 October 2018, our dominant male lion, Mike, died from the injuries he sustained in a fight with lions in a neighbouring reserve. We shared this news on our last newsletter and on our social media platforms at the time, and have had the most incredible response from so many people who have send photos they have taken of Mike over the years. Thank you all for sharing your memories and your words of nostalgia with us; it has made us realise just how many people came and went from Tshukudu and were impacted by their sightings of this dignified old king. He had a knack for roaring to the rev of a vehicle engine, and he certainly looked the part as he paraded through his territory, leading his pride. In this blog, we want to pay tribute to Mike and share some of our guests' and guides' photos we're received. (Below by Kenneth Larsen)
Our male lion died at the ripe old age of about 18, which is much older than lions live in the open system because it is only natural that as male lions pass their prime, they get challenged and beaten by younger males looking to take over prides and enter the dominant stage of their lives, siring cubs, and controlling territories. Mike came to his home at Tshukudu as a wild lion from Kruger, and he remained as the king of his territory for the rest of his life without having to fight nomadic males looking for a challenge. Here, he quickly became the star of the show for many, many guests who travelled from all over the world to experience an African safari. Plenty of these guests came back again and again, and watched Mike progress from powerful, regal king cat, to an old man with scars to show for his age. His mane might have thinned out, but Mike continued to impress guests, new and old, until the day he died.
Ultimately, when Mike broke through the fence and into the neighbouring reserve, his confrontation with three males in their prime rendered him defenceless. Its ironic that this lion who spent his life within the boundaries of Tshukudu was eventually killed on the other side of the fence in a fight with competing males, just as he would have been likely to have died in the open system of Kruger. The injuries that led to Mike's death were on his back legs and his belly, revealing that he had been attacked from behind. Mike stood no chance against three adult lions, and despite our greatest efforts and surgery performed by the best in the business, his injuries were too great and he passed away a few days after the fight.
Now, there are two lions on Tshukudu: an adult female of about 9 years old and a 3-year-old male. These two, just like Mike, are free-roaming, wild lions who are familiar with the presence of the game viewer and are big favourites with guests. Both were born on Tshukudu, while Mike came to us from the Kruger. They work together to hunt and share their feasts (although no lions share too happily!) and for the rest of the time they sleep, and sleep some more!
Rest peacefully old boy. You are missed and remembered!