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Niël Steinmann sharing Apollo's story
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REFLECTING ON TIME SPENT WITH THE LION WE LOVED ...

A month I will never forget - December 1999. I was spending quite some time at the Farm INN where the owner started a breeding programme with lions. Peoples Dynamic Development was established earlier that year and we had an arrangement to use the Game Farm facilities and venue as offices / conference facility. Apollo and his brother were born  on the 22nd of November 99. I was standing at the game fence when Casey (Apollo’s mother – originally from the Kalahari) appeared from the bushes with this 3 week old cub in her mouth (this is very unlike lion behavior) In the photos below you will note that I was right next to the fence. She eventually put the small cub down right in front of me.
I immediately realized something was wrong as this cub was weak and could not walk on his own. I noticed how she was encouraging the small cub to move and delicately directed it with her massive paws. All of this played out right in front of me. I spent many hours with Casey and Tau (Apollo’s dad) during 1999 and to this day I am convinced that she was trying to tell / show me something. Time with them meant just quietly watching them socialize, feed and eventually mate … so they were accustomed having me around. Still this was very much behavior out of the ordinary … maybe a sign of desperation.

We acted immediately, eventually luring her to the feeding camp and then sweeping the area for Apollo and his brother. Apollo, completely dehydrated, was saved in time but unfortunately his brother died later that day. Little did I know how my relationship with this little cub would impact my life  both personally and professionally. Time spent allowed me to understand Lion behavior. Their likes and dislikes, how much they love attention, what excites them and more importantly what annoys and irritates them. 
Above is a photo of the charming Apollo (aged 3 months), in the boma where we often introduced him to clients as “a partner to the PDD Business”. This young lion however had a gentle temperament and we spend many days together. I particularly loved to bring him down to our workshops and he loved the attention and affection. We soon realized that he was abundantly blessed with the genes of what used to be called the “old Transvaal Lion" or "Laeveld leeu”. When he was a year old he already showed sighs that he will carry a massive mane. I watched weekly in disbelief how my lion-son was transformed into a giant killer weighing around 550 pounds.
 
Apollo was a beautiful specimen and it was soon decided that he would be the one to take over the duties from his father to contribute to a more sustainable and healthy lion gene-pool in SA. I regularly entered his camp and played with him up to the age of 5. He was then introduced to 3 beautiful females from Zimbabwe called the Zim-girls … my time was up playing with my oldest son. We still connected, interacted and bonded like brothers, but I respected him for what he was, a powerful male lion. He had a number of cubs and I am thankful that his genes have been passed on to a next generation
 
When I relocated to Cape Town at the end of 2008, the two of us only saw one another on a monthly bases. Apollo never hesitated to come and greet. In these moments I felt recognized, loved and appreciated. We continued to share these moments and on Saturday 30 January 2015 he greeted me during a visit to the farm. He walked over, this time slower, but with all the intention to have my full attention. I scratched his back and whispered in his ears just like we used too. Satisfied he acknowledged my touch with a soft growl … little did I know that this would be my last touch, my last words to this gentle giant.

Apollo died on the 3rd of February 2015. I lost a friend, a partner and soul mate. His legacy will continue as long as I have an opportunity to share his story and that of his species. I owe it to them, those that roam free, those that hunt for a living, teaching us lessons about life in the pride.
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