The Southern Pride is gone.
Just two years ago, we watched this magnificent pride of lions that ruled the Sabi Sands region of Kruger National Park for decades. At that time, it numbered over a dozen lionesses and one powerful male. We spent hours watching five cubs, playing, eating, tumbling over their mothers, aunts and cousins. There was even a bachelor group of three male lions on the periphery that clung together, sometimes hunting together, other times at odds, but always lost, not sure of where they belonged. As children of the pride, they would have to move on, but they weren’t quite ready.
How could such a stable and strong pride disintegrate? It just took the cessation of just two heartbeats.
The male went up north one day and never returned. Park officials assume that he was killed in a battle with another lion. Then the matriarch died of old age. The confused pride hung together for a while but when no leader emerged, they disbanded.
I know how quickly this can happen. Four years ago, my life fell apart after my husband succumbed to a rapacious cancer. A series of tragic events enfolded including loss of my career (to care for him), loss of aged pets, health issues, and a long series of financial struggles. No one would have foreseen that. I had an important career, strong roots in my community and a busy life as a mother, wife and volunteer. But when my husband’s life was extinguished, I found myself wandering, not sure where I was going or where I belonged.
The cessation of two heartbeats obliterated a pride that had ruled for decades.
The end of one life changed my life forever.
But recovery is the other side of loss.
Authorities were hopeful that the Southern Pride would be able to regroup. Five new males had been spotted in the Sabi Sands region. Authorities discovered a strong lioness from the pride who had remained with her cubs and an older daughter. They held out the possibility that this lioness, her cubs, her daughter and one of those males would be able to rebuild the Southern Pride.
But we learned that only two of the five males had returned from a sojourn up north, both badly beaten and weakened. This spelled the death knell for the Southern Pride. It would not be able to re-form.
Sometimes things break forever.
Note to Readers: This is the last of the Africa series—Thank you for reading!
Angela Rieck, a Caroline County native, received her PhD in Mathematical Psychology from the University of Maryland and worked as a scientist at Bell Labs, and other high-tech companies in New Jersey before retiring as a corporate executive. Angela and her dogs divide their time between St Michaels and Key West Florida. Her daughter lives and works in New York City.