He the king of the jungle and one of the most fearless predator in the world, yet this majestic lion quickly turns into a softhearted kitten upon meeting his tiny cub for the very first time. The beautiful moment was caught on camera by wildlife photographer Suzi Eszterhas, during an expedition in Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve, and her snaps are nothing short of adorable.
Although lionesses avoid keeping the newborn cubs around the males, this proud dad seems to be the gentles giant when he meets one of his cubs for the very first time. Even though he didn’t looked too comfortable around his father at first, the adorable 7-week-old cub eventually finds the courage to approach the massive male. The result is nothing but heartwarming as the duo seems to have the time of their lives while play-fighting together.
The 36-year-old California based photographer spent several months tracking this family of lions in Masai Mara, but she said it worth each and every moment as she witnessed some incredible and intimate scenes of the pride.
“Newborn animals are always difficult to photograph,” the woman said. “You spend a lot of time just waiting while they are tucked away, completely hidden in long grass, deep brush. But if you put in enough hours, you will be there when the mother brings them out into the open.”
This particularly cub – as well as his other two siblings – was initially spotted by Suzi when he was just 3-week-old. The cubs usually spent the first two months of their lives bonding with their protective mothers. So when these cubs reached over seven weeks old, their mom decided they were ready to meet their father.
“In this case, I followed the pride for three months, every day from sunrise to sunset, from the time the cubs were only three weeks old,” Eszterhas said. “In these scenes the mother brought them out of the den to meet the pride for the first time, including their father.”
The powerful male proved to be extremely affectionate and protective with his little ones, yet, their mom always kept an eye on them, just to make sure the male won’t be too rough with her babies.
“The cub was a bit shy and apprehensive but the father was very gentle,” the photographer said. “The father also reacted gently by playing with them and often growling. However, the mother was sitting nearby, watching very closely, ready to pounce on the father if he got a bit too rough with her cubs.”