Addo Elephant National Park is renowned for its famous lions. But a little-known fact is that one of its lions, dubbed Josie for identification purposes, is partially blind.
Section Ranger Michael Paxton first realised something was different about Josie when he came across her on a field patrol.
“When I first saw her, I was quite close to her. But she just stood there, and did nothing,” says Paxton. “She was supposed to charge, or react, but she didn’t even notice me.”
A while later, Paxton and a fellow ranger found Josie lying in the bush. “She realised there were people nearby, and stood up and walked away. But she walked straight into a tree,” says Paxton.
On a drive back from Colchester one day, Adendorff witnessed Josie digging a warthog right out of a hole. “We have also seen two more warthog holes that have been dug up by her,” says Adendorff.
It is clear Josie is able to fend for herself despite her disability. “She’s adapted to her situation,” says Paxton.
During a collaring operation later, Josie was darted. Regional Ranger and conservation manager for Addo John Adendorff checked her eyes and found nothing out of place, despite the fact that she is unable to see.
Josie also has erratic patterns of movement, unlike other lions that have more regular routes. Josie is likely following the scent of warthog holes, sniffing and listening as she seeks out her prey.
Josie had her first litter of four cubs in 2014, who are now young adults. Paxton suggests that these cubs would be able to hunt on instinct, and Josie’s partial blindness would not impact their ability to learn how to seek out their own prey. Tourist in the park recently witnessed two females, Josie’s now fully grown offspring, catch a warthog charging straight out of a hole. “It seems she has taught them to hunt in this special way and will continue doing so,” says Adendorff.