Liuwa is one of four cubs at the African Lion and Environmental Research Trust, or ALERT, and African Impact branch in the Victoria Falls area. She and her siblings are animal ambassadors of a sort who are the first stage in a five-part reintroduction process that plans to repopulate areas with lions from a captive population.
A good portion of volunteer days is spent watching the cub's do nothing. There are the occasion spats and walks but lions prefer to spend most of their time sleeping.
This unusual creature is a wild hybrid of a Red Hartebeest and a Blesbok. He lives in Antelope park, an almost 10,000 acre reserve in central Zimbabwe and the birthplace of African Impact and ALERT.
Wildlife and people share the land around the Victoria Falls area fairly harmoniously. The animals are protected from most hunting by strict laws because most of the tourism money that comes into the area is from wildlife encounters or safaris.
A young boy plays in the shell of a van in northern Zimbabwe. African Impact and ALERT partner with this village as an educational tool to teach volunteers about Zimbabwe culture and to help the village craftsman sell their wares.
Zebra is a favorite meal for the cubs and was donated by a local hunting reserve. Most of the lion cub's meals are donated meat from hunts or fresh roadkill.
Feeding time is a voracious affair as the cub's bolt down as much meat as they can as fast as they can. In the wild, they would normally have to go for days without eating so the caretakers mimic this by feeding them every two to three days.
Vultures have played an unwilling conspirator in the decline of lion populations across Africa. Farmers and ranchers have lost livestock to lions for thousands of years and up until recently the only way of retribution was to hunt the culprits with spears, bows or guns. In the past few decades however the availability of various poisons have become readily accessible. Vultures circle over lion kills waiting their turn to pick the carcass clean. People will follow the vultures to the kill, scare off the birds and then poison the meat intending on killing the lions. Unfortunately the poison will kill not only the lions, but the vultures and any other creature that feeds on the kill as well. Lion and vulture populations have plummeted in recent decades due to this.
Sibling scuffles are also fairly common among the cubs. More often than not Liuwa, left, is the antagonizer and her brother, Lekker, is a prime target.
Elli Suarez is a volunteer for African Impact who has traveled all the way from Hawaii to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe to be a part of their community project team that helps at the local old folks home, orphanage and schools.
At the end of the day the volunteers will return to the lodge but will come back to the old folks home again the next day.
AS5 is one of five cubs who has almost reached sexual maturity and will be among the first batch of lions for reintroduction in the wild. He and his sisters will more than likely be separated and relocated to separte reserves around Zimbabwe. This is the final stage in ALERT's program and teh culmination of almost five years hard work.