There’s no such thing as a free lunch – but how are you fixed for dinner?

27 10 2011

After Rusha’s disappearing act on the 24th, we promptly lost all of the lions on the 26th. Entering the site in the early morning their signals led us to the same clump of bushes as Rusha’s had the previous day. All six signals were emitting from the thicket, and if you squinted really hard (stood on one leg and muttered several curses) you could just about make out what was probably the white fur of a lion’s belly. Following several hours of staring at this bush, hoping it would magically disappear and six lions would present themselves – we gave up for the day. With the sun strengthening it was incredibly unlikely they were going to leave their shady spot until into the evening.

But the plus side was that Rusha was back with the rest of the girls.

Two lions were spotted overnight by Dambwa security staff making their way East up the Sanga boundary.  On the 25th we headed in this general direction but the telemetry was receiving a great deal of interference from a lightning storm several miles away. Trying to discern what was the actual signal and what was interference was tricky. But we tracked them down to Tsavo – including the elusive Rusha, who was none the worse for her solitary jaunt.

A flurry of social interactions between the KLs started the observations off; Rusha and Temi watched this performance until Rusha too was drawn into the melee when Kwandi came over and bumped heads. Soon all six were resting again, until Kela and Leya sat staring transfixed by a small tornado winding its way towards their location. We’ve seen numerous small twisters in the site over the last few weeks but never when we’ve been with the pride; it’s either been as we travel the site to and from their location or on game counts. Their eyes grew bigger at the swirling column of twisting leaves and dust, and given half a chance no doubt Leya would try and chase it, but they barely flinched as it passed 30 metres away.

While all this was going on a second team had entered the site to drop the pride’s first scavenge opportunity since being released. Scavenging can contribute from zero to 81% of a wild lion’s diet and is a natural behaviour we encourage from time to time in a release pride, but is not naturally available in this setting. As we stayed with the lions, the second vehicle dropped a carcass off in Bwizu; far enough away that the lions didn’t see, hear or smell a thing.

Just before sunset we left them until re-entering the site at 1900 for a late night observation. Suspicions were piqued as we entered the site; if the lions were still in Tsavo we wouldn’t hear anything on the telemetry, but from previous experience we know that we receive a very faint echo of their signals from the Bwizu area. And that’s what we were getting – so we made straight for Bwizu, and lo-and-behold six lions were gorging themselves silly – it appeared that they had only found it 15 to 20 minutes before we found them.

The earlier storm, while not over the release site, was still playing out in the background and with the lions cast in the red beam of a filtered spotlight the light show in the sky made for an eerie setting.

After an hour or so, Leya and Kela took a break from the buffet and engaged in a couple of social interactions putting last week’s tensions after the oestrus-fest out of mind and cleaning blood from each other’s faces. But all Kela’s hard work scrubbing Leya up was undone when she went back in and stole a leg to feed on.

Just before 2100h, we left them huffing and gruffing at each other over the few remaining scraps.




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