We’ve moved

26 03 2012

With the launch of the new ALERT web site we have decided to move this blog inside the new site.  As from today, all new blog posts will be at our web site on the Dambwa pride’s own page.  Don’t worry, you’ll still have access to this blog from our web site to be able to look back at past stories.  We’ve also transferred everyone subscribed to this blog into our subscription service on the new web site, so you will continue to get a message when a new blog entry is posted (although this will take a few more days to get fully functional – so bear with us).

Thank you for supporting the pride here in wordpress.  We hope you will continue your support at our new web site

The ALERT team





Sunshine and showers

21 03 2012

After the much-awaited sighting on the 18th the 19th continued to compensate for the last few weeks. To start with the pride was relaxing in Chisamu when we first arrived. As they chilled out beneath one of Dambwa’s notorious thickets we managed to find a spot that gave us a reasonable view of them.

A rustling in the tall grass on the other side of the bushes woke everyone up. We couldn’t see what it was, but Kwandi almost certainly could as she got up and began stalking. The “hunt” (if you can call stalking for about 2m a hunt) didn’t last long though and whatever it was either wasn’t of sufficient interest or soon vanished from sight as she sat back down.

After several minutes to recover themselves, the pride then moved out from the thicket and onto the road where we trailed them into Sahara. Coming to yet another thicket they stopped for a drink at a natural water pan which has been created from the rains before settling down once more. Just as the late afternoon sun began to cast a golden glow on them, most of the pride began to tilt their heads skywards, sniffing the air. At first it looked like they may have caught scent of an animal – but shortly after when the skies opened, it seemed more likely they’d got a whiff of the incoming downpour.

Yesterday (20th) was a much more sedate affair with the group resting up in Kariba. For most of the morning we were only able to see Kela, Loma and Zulu clearly, with the others slumped in the grass nearby. Rusha initiated a short move for the group just before breakfast and for a few glorious minutes we watched as all seven ambled along the road before settling down to a bit of a social… before vanishing back into the grass.





Hiya!

18 03 2012

We’re very aware that this blog talks more about grass than it does the actual Dambwa pride these days. However, it has become the key element that dictates the success of our sessions with the pride. The last few weeks have been, for want of a better word, testing. Even when the lions have been found walking along the roads in the site, many of these are so overgrown now that it doesn’t afford much better viewing.

Happily today (18th) they were on one of the roads which still allows a relatively clear view. The first visual of the morning came when we found Kwandi, Kela, Temi and Zulu slap bang in the middle of the road – our view completely unobstructed, a rare treat. Leya, Loma and Rusha were just off the road and the ferocious grinding of teeth against bone punctuated with the odd scraping of tongues to remove every last shred of their latest meal gave a hint as to what the trio were up to.

By 8am the temperature was already soaring, and with everyone having nice full bellies there wasn’t much to do except enjoy being able to see them for a while. One by one they rose and began milling along the road a short distance before stopping to drink from a puddle before settling down in the grass.

By mid-morning they were roughly in the same spot but had moved to the side of the road so we were just about able to make them out. It did however take some considerable time to pick out who was who in the heap of lions as the seven performed their usual trick of contorting and piling every single last one of themselves into one tiny patch of shade.





A pain in the grass…

6 03 2012

Wednesay (29th) we joined the pride on the border of Tsavo and Kulibe in what is probably the only clearing left in the site. It was a quiet day – apart from one rather inappropriate move Loma pulled on Leya.

Later in the week they were in Kariba. We spent an entertaining two hours with the only visible part of any of the lions being Kela’s bottom. After breakfast however, things livened up a bit. As we arrived we found them all sitting under a bush watching a guinea fowl in the tree above them that was screeching its head off. After several minutes, the lions had lost interest and the bird eventually seemed to calm down (no doubt its being up a tree had something to do with the seven lions) and flew to the ground about 30 metres past the lions.

The bird then proceeded to continue its calling whilst walking back in the direction of the lions. Rusha finally roused herself from the bush and peered around a tree to watch as it waddled closer. As it then turned off in a different direction still advertising its position louder than was wise, Rusha began to follow. She seemed to get to within 10 metres of it before losing it in the grass and returning to the pride.

Monday (5th) and after stopping by one of the lions’ recent feeding sites, we tracked their signals down to a bush on the edges of Bwizu and Chobe. No matter which side we came from the lions couldn’t be seen, so we decided to check water levels at the three pans. Returning to the bush on the off-chance the lions had moved out of it we found that now their signals weren’t even emitting from the area. But we were able to follow some rather fresh prints to their new location at pan 2. But they were no more visible here either.

Luckily Kela saved the day by sitting just within sight, but the rest we could only listen to as they shuffled around in the grass. A brief glimpse of Temi and an even briefer one of Kwandi helped pass the afternoon, but we spent the session watching Kela as she enjoyed the afternoon breeze.





What’s going on in there?

28 02 2012

Once again, the weather has done a pretty good job of keeping us out of the site over the last week or so. This morning when we went in, we got to see just what effect the downpours have been having on the Dambwa Release Area. The entire area, including the roads, is now dwarfed by six to eight foot grass; swamping our vehicle and of course the lions. Over the last few weeks, the viewing has been difficult – now it’s practically non-existent.

Having tracked their signals to the edges of the Acacia boundary it took the better part of the two hours to pick out seven forms in the grass and then wait for each one to stand up and resettle in a new position until we were able to identify each lump confidently. A morning well spent.

A game count after breakfast proved fairly fruitless, with the game proving just as difficult to spot as the lions. Even when we did happen to catch a flash of an animal in the grass counting them was more guess work than anything else.

Back to the lions and thankfully some of them had shifted into the shade of a tree and the grass they had flattened around them gave a few glimpses of activity and behaviour.

The now obligatory tree scratch of each session came today from Loma, who then and had good old groom with Rusha.

Temi and Zulu watched the skies while Leya slept on and the Ks remained stubbornly just out of sight until we were about to leave when Kwandi finally came into view.

By all accounts, a quiet and relaxing time in Dambwa… but who knows what’s going on in that grass?!





Nothing says I love you like a meal for seven

15 02 2012

Over the last few weeks the grass height in Dambwa has become an increasing obstacle to research on the pride, and no more so than over the last few days. Some efforts have resulted in a massive fail with the grass reaching several feet above the vehicle in many places and the lions being to all purposes un-viewable. Tuesday 14th looked as though it was going to be a similar sort of event – and to a certain extent was.

Following the signals from the collars as far as Tsavo, thanks to a recent rain shower some relatively fresh spoor along the road then led us North toward the Acacia boundary. A little further along the boundary we saw a form in the grass, which on closer inspection turned out to be Zulu drinking from a puddle in the road. After several minutes he stood and turned to walk in the opposite direction from us; his stomach bulging from side to side as he walked away. The girls’ signals were just registering but weren’t too close, but the further we followed Zulu the stronger they got. And then… he turned into the boundary and disappeared right where the rest of the pride’s signals were strongest. Two and two were starting to add up; a fat lion plus a quick drink probably equalled a hidden carcass with the rest of the pride somewhere in the boundary.

Later in the afternoon they had all come out from the boundary and looked mammoth.

Resting in shade (and of course tall grass) near water pan 2, the tell-tale blood streaks with accompanying flies were all over their coats and the chorus of panting finished off any doubt that the pride had shared a Valentine’s Day meal. Our best guess is that it was waterbuck on the menu.

This morning (15th) and they’d moved all the way to the other side of the water pan. Luckily they were a little more visible initially than the previous day and spent the morning grooming one another with great gusto. First Kela and Zulu gave one another a good going over.

Then Kwandi and Temi sandwiched Rusha into an enforced bath.

While sisters Leya and Loma had a bit of a wrestle before cleaning all the mud off of each other.

Despite these lovely scenes, Rusha soon put a stop to them and led the pride into an area that just a few weeks ago we would have been able to continue watching them but now…





Dark skies over Dambwa

8 02 2012

The 8th and the pride were on the boundary of the Acacia treeline and Kariba. It was a quiet morning but all were very alert to something beyond our view. As usual Zulu was throwing his weight around when deciding to sit on top of Kela and Loma’s heads – something that’s becoming a bit of a habit for him.

Entering the site after breakfast a light shower was passing through the site. It only lasted 10 minutes or so and by the time we’d caught back up with the pride the last few drops were easing. Temi still seemed as restless as earlier initially sitting 20 metres or so away from the others scanning the area to the north of them, but eventually came and sat in the middle of the huddle. Just as she did a second shower came rolling in from the North – it was light enough though that we were able to stay with them. As the water started falling Zulu did something rather strange – he stood and walked a few metres before looking up to the sky. He then checked the clouds to the south, then to the north and then to the south again. Walking round to the other side of a bush he then did the same thing, tilting his gaze upwards and looking to the east and west, before checking the north again.

Deciding it was safe for now as this shower came to an end he settled back down amongst his ladies but as rumbles of thunder echoed, he’d bolt up each time and check the skies again. As the third wave of water swept in from the south west, the seven piled in under possibly the smallest tree possible. This one was a serious storm and after five minutes it was clear we weren’t going to be able to wait this one out. With a final glimpse of the pride under probably the worst choice of tree imaginable getting an absolute soaking, we wished them good luck and skidded all the way to the exit.








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