The Heartbreaking Story of a Lion and His Mother After a Snake Attack


Everybody loves to see cute animals, and while seeing them on our phones and computer screens is pretty cool, it’s no replacement for seeing everything up close. That’s what makes safaris at places like Skukuza Rest Camp so popular: it gives everyone a chance to safely see animals roaming around that would otherwise be in a cage. In many ways, this includes exotic animals that visitors can’t find in places like the United States.

However, various animals coexisting together can lead to some heartbreaking moments, especially when animals are attacked shortly after being born. That happened recently when a lion cub was attacked by a snake, leading to an experience that none who were there will ever forget.

What happened with this little lion, and what made all of this so shocking to those who witnessed it? Keep reading to find out!

It started as just another day 

Over the years, tour guides at Skukuza Rest Camp have seen plenty of crazy things. Of course, nobody ever wakes up knowing that one day will be any different than another day. When surprises happen, they usually come out of nowhere.

And that was quite literal for marine tour guide Derek Gold. It’s his job to safely escort people through the area, and that means being on the lookout for possible threats. One day, he saw an animal and her two children emerge into the road…and after he took one look at the animals, he knew that something had gone horribly wrong.

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A lioness emerges with her cubs

Derek Gold very nearly missed this animal sighting. At first, he noticed that some bushes they had driven by had something brown-colored hidden inside of them. He ended up reversing the vehicle in order to check out this new mystery.

And it didn’t take long for him to get the answer that he was seeking. What Gold had seen before was the sight of a lioness. After he reversed the vehicle, he saw her emerge into the road, and she had two of her cubs with her.

It’s not uncommon for cubs to travel side-by-side with their mother. But while the mother and one of the cubs were moving just fine, it was immediately clear that something bad had happened to the second cub.

One of the cubs had trouble keeping up

As the animals moved into the road, Derek Gold noticed that one of the cubs was having trouble walking on its own. He said that it looked almost like the one cub was drunk: it was having trouble walking and lagged behind the others, clearly having trouble keeping up with its mother. Heartbreakingly, the healthy sibling tried to help the other cub walk, but it wasn’t very effective.

Eventually, the mother even picked the cub up in her mouth in order to help it move. At this point, more humans had arrived on the scene, but Gold tried to keep his distance because he didn’t want to accidentally stress the slow cub out any more than it already was.

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The sad diagnosis

Nobody was able to get close enough to the lions to make a definitive diagnosis, and even if they had, no veterinarians or other animal health experts were in the area. In fact, the closest thing to animal experts in the area was the tour guides. And while Derek Gold didn’t know what was going on, one of his fellow guides put forth a theory.

According to the other guide, it looked like the lion cub in question had been by a snake. If venom was coursing through the young animal’s body, it would explain why the cub was having so much trouble keeping up with its mother as they walked along the road.

Why lion cubs are especially vulnerable to snakes

We normally don’t think of snakes as an enemy of lions, but the truth is that snake venom can be just as deadly to lions as it is to humans. However, a full-sized lion is likelier to survive getting bitten by a snake due to their immense size. In short, the amount of venom in the average snake isn’t always enough to seriously hurt or kill an adult lion.

Unfortunately, snakes are considerably more dangerous to lion cubs. The cubs are smaller and more susceptible to the venom. And cubs are more curious than they are cautious, causing them to wander closer to potentially-fatal snake encounters than adult lions usually do.

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The lion cub’s fate remains unknown

Perhaps the most frustrating thing about this entire encounter is that we don’t know exactly how the story ended. Eventually, the lioness and her two cubs left the area, and neither Derek Gold nor anyone else has gotten any updates as to whether the cub survived.

It’s entirely possible for the cub to survive a snake bite, and we’re certainly hoping that’s what happened. If so, the young cub has hopefully learned an important lesson about not getting too close to snakes while exploring the area!