Up before 4am to catch a ride to BPG, I stood next to the enclosures with headphones on, gear in hand, and a microphone held outstretched above my head. In the hour before dawn the lions started warming their throats up with subdued whuh whuh whuuuuuhs, but soon enough picked up the volume until my ears filled with an impressive chorus of roaring. It was loud enough that I could feel the pressure waves pressing against my chest, rattling my heart with their force. Not surprising, as a lion’s roar can carry for miles; but hearing a dozen-plus lions roaring from three kilometers away in our river tent is not the same as standing ten meters away and listening to them light up en masse. It’s an impressive thing to simultaneously hear, feel, and be witness to.
As the morning light started creeping up behind the roaring ensemble, Kim and I spent a brief few minutes catching up with a couple of other feline friends before our ride had to get back down to camp. Moyo, with a full and proper mane coming in now, looked absolutely resplendent; any traces of him being the fake lion completely gone. We said hello to Tsavo, Thulani, and others for some friends who had worked with them previously, but because of the dark we were unable to capture any good photos to pass along.
And then we paid a visit to Acacia – a favorite of many of the staff, including Lion Encounter’s GM Nicola, who had asked us to look in on her while we were at AP. Acacia had been terribly ill in the weeks leading up to our visit, and everyone feared the worst for her. They thought she’d been having kidney troubles and had put her on a course of antibiotics, which seemed to have improved her condition. She was being kept in a management enclosure near where we’d been recording the roars and, sickly though she was, lifted herself up to warmly greet us. Looking gaunt and frail, I won’t say it was anything other than heartbreaking to see her that way. Acacia craved our attention, however – always a good sign – so we spent the remaining time we had left scratching her through her enclosure fence and giving her some welcome love and attention. As we were leaving, Acacia moved off slowly to greet the lions in the enclosure next to hers and was warmly received by the others there, lifting our spirits.
Sadly, though, we got word after we were back home that she passed shortly after our visit to AP. Several blood tests conducted during that time showed ever-increasing levels of Serum Creatine, suggesting her kidneys were rapidly failing – something a post-mortem would confirm. A difficult but humane decision was made to euthanize her.
Rest in peace, sweet Acacia.