The first stirrings… maybe?

28 12 2011

On Christmas Eve the pride were all relaxing in Kariba. Not long after we arrived Kwandi initiated a move which one by one everyone else, except Kela who was passed out in the tall grass followed. We had just started an activity budget with Rusha during the move, when she split off away from the others and began heading in her own direction.  As she was our focus lion for the next hour we of course stuck with her as she made her way to water pan one. After a quick sniff around a few old carcasses, she set off again. Waiting for her to get a distance in front we set off after. And then there was a noise. Two noises actually, as first the back left tyre burst, not once but twice and a rush of air came out.

We knew roughly where the lions were as we hadn’t been gone that long, but the thick vegetation that is growing rapidly now in the rainy season meant we couldn’t see where Rusha was anymore or if the rest of the pride were making their way in our direction too. So a back-up vehicle entered the site and came to watch the lions while the tyre was changed.

Once that was all done, Rusha had found her way back to the rest of the pride and Kela had woken up and joined them too. But there wasn’t much of the afternoon left for us to observe.

Yesterday (27th) we found the pride on the march to water pan 3 with Kela and Kwandi leading the way. But as they neared the pan instead of drinking there was a mass, well, orgy almost. Kela, Kwandi, Loma and Leya flopped on top of one another head-rubbing and rolling around. This scene of sisterly love went on for close to 10 minutes.

Rusha and Temi sat a little distance away looking on with incredulousness. Zulu on the other hand kept an even healthier distance to begin with.

The main initiator in this affectionate display (from what we could see amongst the rolling mass of fur) appeared to be Leya. A normally fairly reserved lion in her affections, it could possibly indicate she is coming into heat. But there were no other overt signs that this is the case. It is worth remembering that these lions are much younger than the Ngamo pride and that three of the Dambwa females have not yet had their first oestrus cycles, which is perfectly normal for their age.

Once the commotion had died down a little, Zulu seemed to find the courage to approach. Of course all four of the KLs bolted up right at his approach and looked on eagerly – but we didn’t observe any of the classic “displaying” signals from the females to him.

Despite it being a rather cool and breezy afternoon and perfect lion weather, apart from that first initial burst of activity everything went a bit quiet after that. Kwandi and Rusha were especially alert to the slightest noise but everyone seemed content to spend the afternoon resting.

Since Zulu’s release, Temi is probably the one female who has continued to give him a bit of a wider berth than the others, clearly intimidated at times. So it was nice to see towards the end of the afternoon that she came over and greeted him – tentatively – before sitting next to him in the mass KL huddle.

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