New cubs & pride takeovers in Meru

22 December 2022


Born Free reports significant changes for the lion prides of Meru in eastern Kenya, with the recent birth of five cubs, as well as fascinating new coalitions and dominant males.


Aided by supporters, Born Free is working hard to protect Kenya’s important lion population and there is significant news to report from our heartland of Meru National Park, the park where Elsa the lioness was returned to the wild.

It is estimated there are only 20,000 lions left in the wild, with approximately 2,500 of these found in Kenya including some 80 in Meru. Unfortunately, lion populations are decreasing globally, due to threats including a loss of habitat as human populations expand and conflict with humans resulting in the poisoning, shooting, or snaring of lions. The population monitored by Born Free in Meru since 2014 is a vital stronghold for lions.

Born Free’s mission to protect lions and secure their future, conducted by our Pride of Meru team, helps ensure the lion population in this park 180 miles NE of Nairobi, is protected, monitored, and tracked, allowing us to better understand the prides’ behaviours and interactions. Together with our conservation partners including the Kenya Wildlife Service, we are developing  strategies to protect the population, mitigate threats, and preserve critical lion habitat. The Pride of Meru team has identified 76 lions across four prides – Bisanadi, Elsa, Mulika and Virginia (named in honour of our charity’s Co-Founder Virginia McKenna OBE).

As we reported in August, this year we have witnessed an exciting addition to the Virginia Pride, with the female Mugure giving birth to five cubs. The births were recorded on 4th August 2022, bringing the current estimated lion population to 76 lions within Meru National Park.

“Lion cubs are the cutest, especially their blue eyes, and they are full of life,” said Born Free’s long-term driver in Meru Victor Cheruiyot, who has a passion for lions. “It is amazing to see Mugure’s cubs safely hidden in the impenetrable thicket. This is a fantastic sighting, and it’s hard to believe such tiny cubs will grow into one of the most feared predators in the animal kingdom.”

It has been a fascinating field season, with several pride takeovers within Meru. Over the past six months, we have observed new contenders and changing dynamics of territorial males within the park. On five occasions we have sighted males with slight limps, and minor injuries, an indication that possible territorial fights might have ensued among the observed males.

Currently, three new lion coalitions have been formed. These include the Solio_T3 coalition – three males named Farid, Faris and Faisal, all successfully translocated from Solio (an area west of Meru National Park) in 2020. One of these three males is the suspected father of Virginia pride’s new cubs. This formidable coalition is catching everyone’s attention – the trio fearlessly move through several territories previously held by other males. They are the new force to reckon with in Meru! It appears they have become dominant in both the Bisanadi and Virginia prides.

There is another new coalition between Moja – who used to be part of the George and Moja coalition until George’s death a couple of years ago – and Tesa, a translocated lion from Sericho (an area northeast of Meru National Park). Although currently not in control of a pride, they are older and more experienced than the Solio_T3 coalition, so might attempt to takeover a territory. Our team will continue to monitor these two to ascertain the outcome.

Also, the brothers King and General have formed a third new coalition. These brothers are in their prime at approximately six years old, so it is expected they may attempt to takeover a pride in the near future. However, the pair still require some physical growth and maturing before they will be ready to claim a pride for themselves.

Born Free is committed to securing a safer future for lions and other wildlife within the Meru conservation landscape. It is only through your generous donations that we can continue conducting these vital conservation activities. You can support the iconic prides of Meru and help to keep the new cubs safe by adopting Elsa’s Pride.