michael-ibk

Lady Liuwa - and now her watch has ended.

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She was one of the grand old dames of the lion world, and now she is no more - the famous Lady Liuwa, once (fortunately no more) the "Last Lioness" of Liuwa Plains. She died from natural causes, at an incredible age of 17 years. A truly exceptional animal.

 

https://www.african-parks.org/newsroom/press-releases/remembering-lady-liuwa-last-lioness-liuwa-plain

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:(  Sad to read those tributes, but moving, she lived a long and natural life thankfully!

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Posted (edited)

A few pics of this amazing lioness. Thanks Michael for sharing this information.

P1020653.jpg

 

P1020656.jpg

 

P1020643.jpg

Edited by Botswanadreams
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A Goodbye from SafariChick and Sangeeta: Our Eulogy to Lady Liuwa

 

Lots of you already know the story of the Last Lioness – and the resilience that helped her survive all alone in a remote Zambian park after her entire pride had been hunted down. With the help of humans, she went on to thrive and lived the remainder of her life with a new pride she eventually called her own.  Hers is a story of hope and despair, both for her species and our own.

 

@SafariChick has already written a great trip report detailing our trip to Zambia, but I was very moved by her passing and thought it would be fitting to talk today about the back story of our safari to Liuwa Plain NP in November 2014.

 

At the time, this was the maddest trip we had ever planned. Sometime in the summer of 2013, Jane & I (and @KitSafari too, though she was not able to join us) got a strange bee in our bonnets that whatever else we did or did not do, we were going to see Lady Liuwa and Busangadude before they passed on, so help us God! Both these lions were old and had already lived long lives in the wild, and we were infected by a strange sense of urgency to make this trip happen nownownow.

 

Liuwa is best visited in early November (or May) but that’s also when it buckets down on the Busanga Plains, and the camps there (wisely) close for the season by then.

 

That was also the same year that Robin Pope had discontinued his Liuwa trips and suddenly, there was nowhere nice to stay in Liuwa and no easy way to get there either.

 

The upshot to all this was that we had no place to stay on the Busanga Plains (for Busangadude) and no place to stay in Liuwa (for Lady Liuwa) You’d think we’d have thrown in the towel, but no, no, the fever raged on unabated.

 

We wrote to everyone we knew (and many we did not) in Zambia and every last person told us that it was impossible, foolish and very unwise to try and get to the Busanga Plains once the rains had arrived. So Jane and I measured the kilometers outwards from the Busanga tree line to see if we could possibly prevail on someone do a day trip for us.

 

And we wrote one last time to none other than our own @KafueTyrone. Tyrone & Phil were our knights in shining armor on this trip (against their better judgement, I think). But they were great sports and Tyrone eventually agreed to drive us all the way up to the plains and back again to Musekese – though we needed to be ready to spend the night in the vehicle if we got mired in Kafue’s infamous black cotton soil! Stuck in the mud? Tsetses on the Busanga treeline? Pffft, when was that a problem? High fives everywhere as we had Busangadude sorted!  

 

Now what on earth were we going to about the Lady? There were simply no camps open in Liuwa, so where could we possibly stay? After a lot of research, we finally settled on Bundu Adventures, a mobile safari outfitter who came to us highly recommended and who agreed to drive us from Kafue to Liuwa, rain or no rain. But the safari numbers they came back with were scary for just the 2 of us.

 

And so off we went again – this time, looking for prospects to join us on the trip. We first stumbled upon a really nice young man from Chicago, equally smitten by the Lady, who was also looking for safari companions for his return trip to Liuwa. Then we were three. We still needed 1 more person to make this work and Jane finally roped her massage therapist in! Poor AM. Her first safari to Africa was going to be a road trip that crossed half of Zambia, had her staying at the Hollywood Motel in Mongu, in little dome tents and 43 degrees Celsius in the park, dark common loos with big spiders lurking and Lady-obsessed safari companions who were happy to park beside the sleeping lions for hours at an end! If there’s someone else besides Tyrone who needs a medal from this trip, it’s AM.

 

Since then, I’ve often wondered why it is that so many of us get these bees in our safari bonnets. What is it that pushes us and pulls us and forces us to be accommodating, intrepid, persistent, annoying, adventurous and so much more? What is it about these parks and these animals that beguiles us over and over again?

 

Sometimes, it’s just the stories…

 

I was enchanted by Busangadude the moment I saw Swamp Lions, and was fascinated by the many stories about him that I read through @Safaridude and others who were fortunate to see him many times over his remarkable life. We never did get to see him on that trip to Zambia, but at least we know we tried and that makes us happy. He was no ordinary lion. He was a character unto himself and lived a full and storied life, doing things that you don’t expect lions to do.

 

The Last Lioness was a haunting movie that sucked me into the life of a lonely lioness, and along with many thousands of her fans the world over, I too rooted for her to bond with the transplanted males, to have cubs (and was sad when it became clear that she could not), to enjoy her time with her new pride. Nor was Lady an ordinary lion. She too was a character and lived a full and storied life, doing things that you don’t ordinarily expect lions to do.

 

It is sad but fitting that she passed away yesterday, on the eve of the International Day of the Lion. An Ambassador for her species until the very end. RIP Lady Liuwa. We’re so glad we made it out there to you.

 

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Beautifully said, @Sangeeta  thinking about that trip brings back such emotions. It was so difficult to plan and carry off and we had some problems along the way for sure. We never got to see Busangadude but I'm so happy we got to spend time with Lady Liuwa.  So sad to hear she is gone but she lived a really long life. What an amazing lioness.  RIP, Lady Liuwa.

 

Here is our report from that crazy trip: 

The part after we actually got to Liuwa starts at page 4 at post 94 though the trip to GET to Liuwa starts earlier. 


Here are probably the two best photos I got of Lady Liuwa from that trip:

 

15883021757_8cc9ccf46d_c.jpg

 

15446530514_a798960622_c.jpg

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I'm just reading this now and .....for some reason...just crying. Although heartened that she went the way she did.....a light has been extinguished and I guess I'm feeling like this world could really use a lot of light these days. RIP Lady Liuwa.

 

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Posted (edited)

Interesting reading in the link provided in the OP.

 

October 2002 and I'm with friends on Liuwa plain. It is late afternoon and we're watching widlebeeste slowly make their way to a small waterhole with a reed bed at one end. Then some one says "Is that a lion amongst those reeds? I thought I saw a head pop up." We all search but see nothing...

 

The driver of the vehicle is an experienced safari guide and walking safari specialist, he slowly drives a circuit of the waterhole and sure enough cuts her spoor. "Yes" he says casually "we do have a lioness in those reeds".

 

Finally the wildebeeste arrive and she launches an attack but misses her target. We now get a good look at the lioness.

The general consensus ~  Wow she's young to be by herself. I can only presume it was Lady Liuwa.

 

Years later when Liuwa Plain was becoming more popular I saw an image of that waterhole in an issue of Africa Geographic magazine. I immediately thought of that very young lioness. 

 

EDIT: I should add that at that instant in time she was very skittish. If we tried to approach she would dart back to the other side of the reed bed. After a few attempts at closing the gap we let her be.

Edited by Geoff
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Thanks for posting this Michael.  A truly remarkable story and an amazing life. 

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I'm going to be really sentimental and mushy about this - I'm quite depressed I'll not see Lady Liuwa, but somehow I knew I never would after my failed attempts last year at going to Liuwa Plains. some of you may think she was just like other famous lionesses like ma ti dau in Duba Plains. She was anything but.

She defied men's definitions of the habits of lions and against all odds she survived without a pride for more than nine years on her own, and managed to make her kills on her own. she cleverly avoided the humans who poisoned all her pride members and sought out the right humans to help end her loneliness. she was against all typecast. a true unique individual and it is stories like this that help the larger world population to empathise with the carnivores and help the lions' cause. 

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I've never been to Liuwa but still feel sad at this news.

 

What a moving goodbye @Sangeeta and how poignant the news must have been for you, @SafariChick, @Botswanadreams, @Geoff, @KaingU Lodge, and others who've been to Liuwa.

 

Her positive legacy is the publicity and successful translocation of her kind.

 

 

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She was a special lion indeed. Purring outside my tent from time to time, sometimes lying around in camp when we were cooking dinner at night. And when you would shine a torchlight in her direction she would roll on her back. When additional lions were introduced this behaviour became less and less and she spend more and more time with her own kind, the way it was supposed to be. She lived a long life for a lion, but it's still sad that the last lion of Liuwa left. 

 

@Geoff Do you have any pictures of Lady from 2002? Or anybody in your group? I think there were 3 lionesses in 2003, but not sure if I remember that correctly. 

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1 hour ago, egilio said:

@Geoff Do you have any pictures of Lady from 2002?

 

@egilio I didn't take any images but one was mailed to me (we were all using slide or print film). I've moved house 3 times since then and I've be searching high & low all day for that image but can't find it.

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Bummer, but seeing a young lioness at that time fits very well with her estimate age (from footage in 2005 when she was in a prime age). 

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Particularly sad for you @egilio and others that worked there. Love the story of her purring outside the tents etc. She must have been so desperate for companionship....and over time it was provided for her when the other lions were introduced.  

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@Geoff - amazing to think that someone right here saw her as a youngster. When we measure most things, 2002 doesn't seem so long in the past. But with Africa, it seems like a whole era has gone by since then. Thanks so much for sharing your encounter with her. Always look forward to your posts.

@egilio Ditto what @wilddog said. My heart goes out to all of you who interacted with her so closely, and to Herbert Brauer, for bringing her story to light.

@Caracal - thank you. Nice to beback on here and reading all my old buddies again :)

 

 

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gallery_108_790_252129.jpg

Posing pretty in Dec 2012

 

She had a long life which she shared pridemates in the end. Thank you @michael-ibk for posting this news and thank you all for sharing your memories of Liuwa Plains and its Lady.

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Posted (edited)

"The Last Lioness" was a remarkable documentary, revealing a disturbing story and captivating message with a unique personality, capable of moving and creating an empathy little seen in documentaries of animal life. She was a ruthless warrior faces the hyena groups, in contrast to their desperate search for companionship, providing a sizing of how lions are socially dependent. His story also revealed how difficult / problematic is a reintroduction of lions into areas without fencing.

 

 

Lady Liuwa returned to my thoughts. Today, much more aware of how lions are and live, I began to reflect on "being the last of a species in an area." The first one that came to my mind was the wandering lion that "appeared in 2015 in Gabon" and is surviving in the forested area of  Bateke Plateau - what a fantastic and tragic story he has to tell! What he experienced. His elusive behavior, his stay in an unusual biome for lions is reflected in a possible adaptation caused by traumatic experiences with humans. How were the last days / months of life of the last lions of Mole, Comoé, Odzala? How are the last Lions of  Waza living? Like Lady Liuwa will they have been fully aware of their situation and loneliness?.

 

 

Link of the interview made in 2016 by Herbert Brauer.

https://africageographic.com/blog/interview-lady-liuwa-filmmaker-herbert-brauer/

 

Edited by Matias Cox
Grammar correction
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Very poignant post, @Matias Cox - sadly too many 'last of species' stories. Thanks for sharing the Brauer interview link.

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Posted (edited)

I can't wait to visit King Lewanika Lodge in Liuwa Plain to see the migration and also the bat migration in Kasanka and ofcourse Bangweulu Plains now that African Parks is now working it's magic there. I will definitely go.

Edited by optig

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