The call came in late in the afternoon. Guardian Kapande reported that he was following the tracks of one male, two females and two small cubs. He was sure the large male was Meliyo. A surge of excitement crept through Lion Guardians headquarters – Meliyo had not been seen since Mbalueni was poisoned. Could those two females with Meliyo be Mbalueni’s daughters, Koyiaya and Nenkomom?
Lion biologist and media manager, Philip J. Briggs, immediately packed his gear and headed off to the report to confirm the identity of these lions. Early the next morning, we received the good news. Blessed with a clear and bright night, the light of the full moon and the help of Guardian Kapande, Philip had maneuvered the Landcruiser through difficult volcanic terrain. When night was beginning to slip into the morning, after hours of searching and waiting, they were rewarded. Meliyo appeared – confident and proud.
A while later, using the cloak of darkness in a secretive style similar to their mother Mbalueni, her two daughters slinked in from behind. Hesitant to come close and avoiding all lights, even that of the moon. But Philip and Kapande endured. Waiting quietly, barely breathing, until patience paid off once again. Koiyaiya and Nenkomom emerged slowly and hesitantly into the moonlight and with them were two tiny wobbly cubs! It felt like a miracle. Mbalueni’s two young daughters had survived the poisoning event and Koiyiaya had given birth for the first time, passing on the genes of their mother Mbalueni to a new generation.
The entire Lion Guardians team is elated – the spirit of our humble, strong and silent soldier lives on. Not all was lost for Mbalueni’s family on that horrific day. Mbalueni did live a long life and now we know she is survived by her two young daughters and tiny wobbly cubs of hope!