Today is World Lion Day! It is a day to celebrate these majestic animals and raise awareness about their plight. Lions will always have a special place in our hearts, with our Director Drew Abrahamson having worked for many years in rescuing lions, and after joining forces with Director Carl Thornton, has involved Pit-Track and our K9s in lion relocations and conservation.

Selinda Pride cub  ©  Drew Abrahamson

There are many ways to describe this apex predator. They are fierce, yet gentle; highly social, yet singularly focused when eating; tightly bonded, yet also nomadic; serene, yet aggressive; powerful and revered, yet in great danger. They are an icon of Africa, admired all over the world, and we must fight for them to ensure they have a future in the savannahs of this great continent.

Lions are the epitome of the African bushveld, Lords and Ladies of their land. Grace, strength, power, rugged… hard beauty.
Drew Abrahamson

White Lions of Timbavati

We begin our celebration with the incredible news of the new white lion cub in Timbavati, a male born to the white lioness of the Birmingham Pride. This is her first litter and she is doing an amazing job as a new mother.

White lion cub © Wild Expressions

This cub takes the total of the white lions in the wild to four, so his birth is significant.  What is even more special is that his siblings and his father – believed to be one of the Mbiri males – are tawny.  This means that the Mbiri male has the white lion gene, with both parents needing it for a white lion to be born.

White lioness and her cubs © Wild Expressions

Three of the four white lions in the wild are part of the Birmingham Pride; alongside this lioness and her cub is a subadult male, whom she grew up with.  He now spends his time largely away from the pride with two of his tawny pride mates.  The fourth white lion is a male, known as Casper, who is part of the Shishangaan coalition with his three tawny brothers, in the Kruger National Park.

Our friend and supporter Caroline Aveley of Wild Expressions was privileged to see the white lion cub in late June, which was an amazing experience and a chance to capture some great photos of this important little cub.

White lion cub  ©  Wild Expressions

We look forward to watching this young boy grow up, and hopefully one day being able to lead his own pride and carry on the white lion gene.

There is something quite magical about seeing these iconic animals in the wild, and simply being in their presence is something special.
Chad Cocking

Lion Conservation – Protecting African Lions

Many organisations are working across the world to save these special cats. One of them is Protecting African Lions (P.A.L.), a non-profit organisation with a mission to obtain protection status for the African Lion. They work with various organisations across Botswana, Tanzania and South Africa, including on the ground projects, community involvement and development, with a focus on protecting wild lion populations throughout Africa. We have been the grateful beneficiary of donations from P.A.L. and enjoy a great working relationship with them. Their CEO, Steve Travis, has provided us with his insights into lion conservation and what makes these animals so special.

Lion statue in London  ©  Steve Travis/PAL

Q: You’re originally from South Africa but now based in the United Kingdom – how did you become involved in lion conservation and what inspired you to begin working in this area?

A: Seeing the plight of lions across the world inspired me to get involved with PAL at the launch of the foundation in September 2013. I felt that I had to do something to help raise awareness of a number of issues faced by lions and other wildlife including cub petting, walking with lions, canned hunting for trophies and lion farming that has been going on in South Africa.

Steve Travis © Steve Travis/PAL

Q: What is your favourite thing about lions? What do you think makes them so special?

A: I love their power, tenderness and ferocity all at the same time. Most of all I love their iconic influence on the world, regal, heraldic, a symbol of overcoming the odds, a celebration of being the apex predator they are.

Lion painting by Conor McCreedy © Conor McCreedy/PAL

Q: Do you have a favourite lion sighting story to share with us?

A: So many to choose from, however the most humbling was two years ago on a game drive with my wife where we followed a lioness and 6 sub adults on the hunt. We were literally in the middle of the pride watching their slow focussed movements before they exploded into action ultimately catching their breakfast and sharing it with us. It was incredible to be a part of this.

Lioness  ©  Steve Travis/PAL

Q: Have you seen the white lions of Timbavati? How significant is the recent news of the white lion cub born to the Birmingham Pride’s white lioness?

A: I have indeed seen the white lions of Timbavati and was fortunate enough to spend some time with them as guests of Linda Tucker of the Global White Lion Protection Trust. I think the cub born to the Birmingham tribe is wonderful news and look forward to watching the cub grow and thrive into adulthood.

Timbavati white lion  ©  Steve Travis/PAL

Q: What do you see as the main challenges facing lions today? What needs to be done to overcome these issues?

A: I think exploitation on every level is the main threat facing lions today. Exploited via cub petting for tourists, walking with lion experiences, by trophy hunters looking for a quick easy kill of a canned lion, bred for the bullet (having already been exploited by the previous two points), the legal and illegal trade of lion bones to the East and the black market that has grown around the world using illicit wildlife body parts. Funding from this trade is also known to support global terrorism and the flow of funds needs to be stopped by stopping the trade.

Steve Travis © Steve Travis/PAL

Q: What is the main focus of P.A.L.’s work at the moment?

A: Primarily to support any / all organisations looking to better protect all wildlife. Whether the support is financial, or alongside other welfare organisations lobbying for trophy hunting imports to be banned in the UK we act in partnership. Hence our ongoing commitment to Pit-Track and looking forward to another collaboration in the near future.

PAL Team © Steve Travis/PAL

Q: Tell us more about your role with P.A.L. and lion conservation generally. How do you stay motivated to continue fighting, at times against all odds?

A: My role with PAL is a CEO of the foundation. This is not my full-time job, PAL does not pay for any of our time involved with the charity, so all funds go where they are needed. Not having lions in my future is all the motivation I need. The odds are there to be beaten, so we continue to push.

Steve Travis © Steve Travis/PAL

Q: If you could teach the world one thing about wildlife conservation, what would it be?

A: We need wildlife and diversity more than it needs us. We, as humans, are so arrogant to think we can walk rough shod over the planet, its wildlife and resources without any consequences. We are responsible for our actions and irresponsible for our actions. We need to save all species across the planet.

Timbavati white lion  ©  Steve Travis/PAL


A Picture Speaks a Thousand Words

Lions are such photogenic animals, with many, many photos being taken of them every day. Their photos can evoke a range of feelings, with accompanying words not really necessary. We share some of these photos here, with thanks to photographers Corlette Wessels, Chad Cocking and Drew Abrahamson.

© Corlette Wessels

© Chad Cocking

© Corlette Wessels

© Corlette Wessels

“The lion does not need the whole world to fear him,

only those nearest where he roams.”

A.J. Darkholme

© Corlette Wessels

© Corlette Wessels

© Chad Cocking

© Drew Abrahamson


Kesari – A Lion Close to our Hearts

A few years ago, Drew and our partner organisation, the Captured in Africa Foundation, were involved in the relocation of lion Kesari from the Pretoria Zoo to the ADI Sanctuary. Kesari was being bullied by his pride and had to be kept in a night house for two years before he was able to be moved.

We are happy to report that he is continuing to thrive in his new home. He was recently given an enrichment treat of a cardboard giraffe, which ADI says “was no match for mighty Kesari, who demolished the enrichment in about one minute, even though he relished every second of it”.

Kesari went from this  ©  ADI Wildlife Sanctuary


To this © ADI Wildlife Sanctuary


ADI reports that this beautiful lion has “found his place within his lion community and has become great friends with neighbors Coco and Chino. They’re often seen alongside each other interacting and even roaring in unison. Kesari also spends time with his other neighbors, Simba and ReyA. All of them enjoy living as close as possible to what nature intended.” Follow ADI’s Facebook page for updates on Kesari and the other big cats in their care.


Thoughts from Drew Abrahamson

Drew has previously shared her thoughts on lions, which demonstrate her love for them and describe them in such a beautiful way. She says:

“Lions are the epitome of the African bushveld, Lords and Ladies of their land. Grace, strength, power, rugged… hard beauty. Faces that tell stories of survival in a world that has become obsessed with materialistic gain, instant gratification and less in touch with the wonders of our planet!

Lioness & cub © Drew Abrahamson


Fighting for the injustices caused by man for a species that is so iconic, Lions, fighting to survive against all odds seems unimaginable.

Life sometimes gives us second chances to right the wrongs, but right now… we don’t have the luxury of time, we cannot get to a place and sit with the questioning, guilt ridden words of ‘if only’…

A deep love for our Lion – King of Beasts. It is not surprising really as when you gaze into their eyes (which you shouldn’t really do as it’s seen as a challenge & you will probably end up as supper) there is something that connects your spirit with theirs.”

Male lion  ©  Drew Abrahamson


Interview with Safari Guide & Photographer Chad Cocking

Our friend, Safari Guide and Photographer Chad Cocking, has provided us with his thoughts and stories about lions, including some special memories, fascinating sightings and wise words about lion conservation.

Q: How long have you worked as a safari guide and photographer, going out into the bush searching for wildlife?

A: My life in the bush began as “gap year” back in 2007, and was meant to conclude by the end of 2008 at the latest…needless to say, it is now 2023 and I am still living in the bush plying my trade as a professional safari guide and wildlife photographer.

Lion eating as hyenas watch on © Chad Cocking


Q: What areas have you worked in or visited?

A: Most of my childhood was spent visiting the Timbavati area, part of the Greater Kruger, and as a result, it holds a special place in my heart. It is for this reason that I have spent over 16 years working in this wonderful private nature reserve; 10 years at Motswari, and 6 years at Tanda Tula Safari Camp.

Lion pride © Chad Cocking


This does give me a good excuse to visit many other areas during my time off, and aside from visiting neighbouring game reserves like the Manyeleti and Sabi Sands, I have also visited Kgalagadi National Park, Hwange and Mana Pools in Zimbabwe, as well as the Serengeti and Maasai Mara in East Africa.

Q: Where do you think is the best place to see lions in the wild?

A: Although my heart (and life) are based in a fantastic place to see lions up close and personal in the Timbavati, and my most memorable sightings are from this area, one would be hard pressed to find a better place for lion viewing that the Serengeti-Maasai Mara ecosystem. The vast open plains teaming with prey species is an ideal area to find and view lions.

Mum and cubs having a drink © Chad Cocking

Q: How many lion sightings would you estimate you have had?

A: I did chuckle at this question, but it is something I have tried to calculate myself over the years. I think a fair estimate would be around 2,500 to 3,000 sightings over the past 16 years.

White lion © Chad Cocking

Q: What has been your most memorable lion sighting?

A: This one is even more difficult to answer than the previous question, as every lion sighting is special. Sightings of lions I never tire of include having male lions roaring next to my vehicle, or energetic lion cubs playing around with one another. Although not for everyone, watching lions in hunting mode is something that always gets my heart racing.

Stalking lioness © Chad Cocking


That being said, if I had to narrow it down to one sighting in particular, it would be a morning when I went up to a remote part of the reserve in the hopes of finding a pride that had a new white lion in their midst.  We were fortunate that we were able to track down the pride, and there amongst the tawny mothers was a snow white cub – my one and only sighting of that precious cat.

White lion cub with pride © Chad Cocking


Equally special was on a drive in an almost equally remote section of the Timbavati looking for a litter of three white lion cubs, and arriving at a dry waterhole and finding the two white lionesses with the three cubs lying out in the open. Although neither sighting was full of action, it was the rarity of seeing white lion cubs in the wild that make them stand out so much for me, and both are moments I will never forget

Q: Do you have a favourite pride of lions, and if so, which one and why?

A: Having been fortunate enough to watch various lion prides over my time, all have worked their way into my heart for various reasons – either because they overcame great odds to survive great challenges, or because I got to watch many members grow up from tiny cubs until they became mothers themselves.

Giraffe Pride © Chad Cocking


That being said, my favourite pride to view is one of our resident prides called the Giraffe Pride. This pride not only gave me the memorable sighting of the five white lions together in one pride all those years back, but more recently, also swelled to a 25-member strong pride – seeing so many lions together is a sight not easily forgotten! The pride was also a very active pride, and would regularly be found moving around even during the daytime hours, something that cannot be said for most lions! The pride also always gives me hope that they may add more white lions to the population whenever one of the lionesses falls pregnant!

Q: When was your first sighting of the white lions of Timbavati, and which lions were they? What was it like to see white lions for the first time?

A: As you can see, sightings of white lions are close to my heart! Despite having been a regular visitor to the Timbavati region when Whitey (the first white lioness in the area left to live out a natural life in the wild) was around in the early 1990s, I had to wait a much longer time to see my first white lions at the end of 2009. I was getting ready to go on leave when a colleague radioed the lodge to tell them I needed to call him; a broken message about white lions filtered through to me, but it was enough for me to abandon my packing and jump into a game viewer and race off towards the lions; I arrived to see a couple of tawny lionesses, and four younger lions; two of which were lighter than their cousins, but not quite white. They were feeding on a giraffe kill, and with the previous night’s rain, were little more than mud-and-blood covered lions, and best described as the “off-white lions of the Timbavati”. At first, we thought they were brand new lions to the area, but soon realised that they were the same white lions we had been hoping would visit the Timbavati after we heard of their birth to the Timbavati Pride in Umbabat Nature Reserve to the north. What we weren’t expecting was for these same lions to pitch up some 20 kilometers south of their usual territory, but here they were! The next time I saw them, they were much cleaner, and much whiter! We were blessed to have this breakaway portion of the Timbavati Pride spend the next two years moving in and out of our area.

White lioness and cub © Chad Cocking


I have been fortunate enough to see a further eight white lions in the wild, taking my personal tally up to ten wild white lions – possibly more than any other person has been fortunate to see.

Q: What is your favourite thing about lions? What do you think makes them so special?

A: There is something quite magical about seeing these iconic animals in the wild, and simply being in their presence is something special. I think we have a deep-rooted instinctive fear/awareness of what these apex predators are capable of, and being able to be so close to them whilst on a safari almost goes against our instinctive behaviour – and that makes one feel truly alive, especially when they look you straight in the eyes! There is no doubt that the social nature of these cats adds to what makes them standout from their other solitary cousins. Watching a pride walk together, hunt together, interact and play together is very un-catlike; but has a synergistic effect in enhancing any time spent with them.

Hiding lion © Chad Cocking


Q: Do you have a favourite lion photo that you have taken (and why)?

A: It has to be my once-in-a-lifetime shot the tawny and white lions drinking next to one another! It is the only photo I have ever taken that, as I pressed the shutter, knew was something special! It stands out from all my other images due to the rarity of the moment, the perfect symmetry and contrast of the scene, and the fact that I had waited almost two days for them to wake up (they were exhausted after feasting on another giraffe) and go and drink, and happened to be sitting at the waterhole when they arrived made for a moment I won’t ever forget… and to have an image like that is just a bonus!

Chad’s favourite lion photo © Chad Cocking

Q: Any other thoughts you want to share about lions to celebrate their special day?

A: Something I have to remind myself that I generally take for granted is how lucky I am to see lions on an almost daily basis when I am out on safari. Despite the innumerable hours I have spent in the presence of these special cats, such moments are far from guaranteed in the coming years. Lions are arguably the most iconic species in Africa, but despite their dominance over the natural world, man’s careless hand is doing its bit to push them increasingly closer to an endangered conservation status. Habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, loss of prey species, poaching and human-wildlife conflict are some of the biggest drivers putting pressure on this keystone species’ populations across Africa, and as the human population grows, these pressures are only going to increase.

I cannot imagine a world without lions – and if I am honest, I don’t think I could do my job as a safari guide if I didn’t have a chance of seeing lions – and we all need to be aware of the pressures that they are facing, and do our bit to spread the word about the importance of their conservation.

Big male lion © Chad Cocking


Although the same pressures face numerous species across the world, if we can ensure that we can keep lion populations protected, we will ultimately have to ensure the survival much more; this is because lions cannot survive without a host of prey species to support them. These prey species cannot survive if the grasslands and woodlands that support them are not protected (along with all the smaller species that help keeping these ecosystems functioning), and these habitats in turn cannot support all the upper levels of the food chain if the soils that underlie them are not conserved. Yes, it is one species that gets more conservation attention that the others, but it is a species that cannot survive if do not protect everything from the soils up to the wildebeest and zebras that rely on the grasses that grow there. Everything is connected, and lions are not exempt – so if we can make sure that we are able to conserve them, we will ultimately be conserving so much more.


Let’s All Be #LionStrong

What a remarkable animal the lion is, the wonderful Panthera Leo. The love and passion people have for these cats is enormous.

Our team is honoured to be involved in lion conservation. We continue our pledge to do everything we can for these majestic animals. We need to unite, to work together, to educate, raise awareness and funds in the fight for these animals. Together we can achieve great things. The lions are counting on us and we can’t let them down. We need to be #LionStrong. Happy World Lion Day!


I love their iconic influence on the world, regal, heraldic, a symbol of overcoming the odds, a celebration of being the apex predator they are.
Steve Travis


A lion’s stare ©  Chad Cocking


One Team. One Dream. Lions for the Future.