He is the king of the jungle and one of the world’s most fearless predators, but the moment this majestic lion meets his little cub, he quickly turns into a soft-hearted cat. This beautiful moment was captured on camera by wildlife photographer Suzi Eszterhas while exploring Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve. The pictures are just lovely!
Although the lioness avoids having her newborn cubs around the male, this proud father proves to be a gentle giant when he meets one of his cubs for the first time. Although the little cub seemed uncomfortable with his father at first, the adorable 7-week-old finally has the courage to approach the large male. The results are just heartwarming as the duo appear to be having the best time of their lives while play-fighting together.
The 36-year-old Californian photographer spent several months tracking this family of lions in the Masai Mara, but said it was worth every second as she witnessed some incredible and intimate scenes in pride.
“Newborn animals are always difficult to photograph,” said the woman. “You spend a lot of time waiting for them while they are tucked away, hidden in the tall, deep grass. But if you put in enough hours, you’ll be there when mom takes them outside.”
This particular cub – along with his two other siblings – was originally discovered by Suzi when he was just 3 weeks old. Cubs typically spend the first two months of their lives bonding with their protective mother. So when these cubs were seven weeks old, their mother decided they were ready to meet their dad.
“In this case, I tracked the pride for three months, every day from sunrise to sunset, from when the cubs were three weeks old,” says Eszterhas. “In these scenes, the mother brings them out of the cave to meet their pride for the first time, including their father.”
Strong males have been found to be extremely loving and protective of their young, but their mothers keep an eye on them, just to make sure the male won’t be too rough with her cubs.
“The cub is a bit shy and nervous but the father is very gentle,” said the photographer. “The father also responded gently by playing with them and often growling. However, the mother is sitting nearby watching closely, ready to pounce on her father if he is a bit rough with her cubs.”