This is a story about lion leadership. It was at the midst of summer six years ago that I saw the two male lions crouching down in the high Guinea grass (Panicum maximum). They were freshly transported into Makalali from a private game reserve around Kgaligadi National park close to the Botswana border with South Africa. Kgaligadi isan area with vast plains consisting of semi-desert vegetation formed by succulents, rocks and hardy clumpsof grass but few trees to escape the blistering sun.
We helped to release these two new lions from the Makalali holding Boma a couple of weeks before. They had stayed for 3 months in there to get used to their new environment which was as big a difference to their old home as day and night. They were destined to become the new lion leadership in our reserve. We named them Etosha and Kalahari. They were both 3 and a half years old, a lightly coloured as the sand in our river and the beginning of blond manes were showing. There manes looked like the Mohawk-hairstyle of the Indian tribes-men once living off the far-away lands in North America. They were certainly not relaxed with our presence and growled every minute, crouching even lower without letting us out of their sight.
Together they were a great team, capable hunters often toppling the biggest of Giraffe and defending their prize for days against hungry Hyena clans and other lions. During these years they fought for territory and dominance of the south side of Makalali against several other coalitions of male lions. During this time Etosha was killed by three upcoming young males that were around their age, born in the reserve but originating from Pidwa-North, an area where I seldom ventured into. Kalahari survived the fight, successfully established a territory and lived tosee his off-spring grow up as he joined the Makutswi-pride females that were often roaming south of the Makutswi river. Two female cubs and one male cub were sired by Kalahari and they survived those first two hardest years forming a strong bond.
By the time they were two years old their comfortable pride life ended as their father Kalahari was killed by two dark-mane lions taking over the Garonga and Makutswi territories including the lionesses that roamed there. The three young lions decided to run for it, sticking together often roaming in the Lufafa area and claiming their lion leadership area. Not long afterwards Kalahari Junior was badly wounded on his leg while possibly catching a warthog. This prevented him to hunt and provide for his own. Being the only male survivor with the strong genes of the Etosha and Kalahari Senior lions flowing in his blood it was decided to dart him, patch up the wound and let it heal in the holding Boma. Kalahari Junior recovered slowly but surely from his wound. The two dark-mane lions that killed his father often visited the boma trying to get into a fight with Kalahari Junior ripping off the electrical wiring in the process.
During these attempts Kalahari Junior stood his ground often charging into the fence showing his survival spirit and lion leadership. It was decided that it was safer for Kalahari Junior to stay inside the boma until his wounds were healed completely and he had a good change to fight off any other lion. His sisters often came round the boma for a visit and took their, now new born, cubs with them circling his boma. On these events Kalahari Junior would be visibly excited, trying in vain to join them and start his lion leadership reign. The long months alone in the boma must have been difficult for the young lion but they never broke his spirit nor changed his mind from his right to the lion leadership. Finally Kalahari Junior was released from the holding boma last September and somehow managed to be accepted by the two dark-mane lions maybe by being so long in the boma in their territory. The three lions were often seen lying close to each-other at either side of the boma fence. On game drive one morning I finally saw him close to his old boma together with one of the dark-mane lions just lying 5 meters apart from each other. He looked more majestic as ever having found his freedom again and the sand-coloured skin together with the blond manes transported me back inmy memories when I first saw his father about 6 years ago. He did not mind our presence however and was content lying in the high Guinea grass content to share his lion leadership.
This story reminded me about an important leadership and teamwork aspect of our lives. I call this lion leadership. We all sometimes are encountered with limitations in our life. Often we can let limitations get the worst out of us by becoming unhappy and negative but we can choose to accept the limitations and use them to learn from them. We then start to grow, opening up other previously unforeseen dimensions that help enrich our life and others around us, in ways we would have never expected. What more can you ask for!