An image of a baboon carrying the lion cub captured by Kurt Schultz in Kruger National Park.     See www.kurtsafari.com
An image of a baboon carrying the lion cub captured by Kurt Schultz in Kruger National Park. See www.kurtsafari.com

Fears the little lion cub abducted by baboon did not survive

By Own Correspondent Time of article published Feb 12, 2020

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Durban - A baboon that carried a lion cub into the treetops for grooming last week left South Africans in awe over the “unusual” event at Kruger National Park.

Despite reports that the lion cub had died, according to Kurt Schultz, director of tour operation Kurt Safari, who captured pictures of the event, there had been no sign of the baboon troop or lion cub after the original sighting.

“It’s rainy season in Kruger and the vegetation is thick and the grass long. When the baboons move away from the road into the grass, it’s not easy to see them,” Kurt Safari said in a statement.

According to the company’s guides, the baboon crossed the road and climbed a marula tree with the live cub. The baboon was grooming the cub as if it was a baby baboon, something which was atypical because baboons are notorious for killing leopard and lion cubs.

“Male baboons do a lot of grooming but the care given to this lion cub was the same care given by a female baboon to one of her own young,” the tour operator said.

The manner in which the baboon handled the little “big” cat raised concerns over the cub’s wellbeing.

“The male baboon moved from branch to branch, grooming and carrying the cub for a long time. The cub seemed exhausted and, although uninjured to the naked eye, there might have been internal damage.

"Cubs are not used to being carried in this manner. Baboons are really strong animals and when they were excited and fighting over the baby in the beginning, it could have been injured internally,” said the company.

It said they did not see a chance of the cub surviving.

“The troop of baboons was large and a lion would not be able to get the youngster back. Nature is cruel most times and survival of young predator cubs is not easy. The lion cub poses a threat to the baboons when the lion gets older,” the tourism organisation said.

Although the rare sighting interested Schultz, he had to quickly move on because other tour vehicles were arriving. “It was already about 30ºC by 8am and dehydration also seemed to be playing a part. The baboons started moving further in and I left the sighting as other vehicles arrived and everyone wanted a view,” said Schultz.

Despite the probable threat to the cub, the organisation said that though the incident may have been viewed as difficult to watch and cruel, they were not permitted to intervene because what was happening was natural.

“One does care for the lion cub and wish it to grow up and live a wild and free life, however, nature has its own ways. We cannot get involved and we need to keep Kruger simple and wild,” said the organisation.

See www.kurtsafari.com

The Independent on Saturday

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