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…





Who the &*#! is that?

4 02 2012

Since the appearance of a certain rather large wild male lion at the Dambwa enclosures (see statement released 31st January) the pride’s time has been consumed guarding the closest boundary of their territory to worry about anything else.  After seven days of vigilance the pride has decided that their borders are secure and went about their normal business.

Friday (3rd) found everyone up and around on Tsavo milling around a carcass. We first came across Rusha, Leya, Loma and Zulu. The others weren’t far according to their signals’ strengths but certainly weren’t within sight. As we pulled up we could see Rusha and Leya were feeding from the now rather rotten remains, while Zulu was chasing Loma around. As we were to learn as the afternoon went on, Zulu had stashed a large amount of the meat in a nearby bush which he was jealously guarding.

Loma had strayed a little too close – but it wouldn’t be the last time she gave it a try.

Within a few minutes Kwandi came plodding through the grass to join the group. With an already full belly she didn’t seem too interested in eating but had a nose through the stinking scraps before sitting down.

Rusha then headed off in the direction from which Kwandi arrived and we followed her suspecting she may be able to lead us to Kela and Temi, which she did as they rested under a tree a couple of hundred metres away from the scavenge site.

The rest of the afternoon was categorised by Kwandi’s group trying to eat and Zulu policing the entire affair. At one point he sensed an attack was mounting on his stockpile and lunged out at a sleeping and completely innocent Kwandi, only to miss Loma running off with some of his stash. Having made such a nuisance of himself, Loma led her sister and Kwandi away from the tyrant and slumped down for some rest.

Having chased off all competition for the remaining food, Zulu suddenly realised he was alone and we could hear his pitiful cries as he tried to locate the girls shortly before he came into view with his nose to the ground sniffing them out. Sitting on Loma’s head once he found them, Leya then sensed her opportunity and made a dash back to the food . Kwandi and then Loma followed, but of course they were soon back under the watchful eye of Zulu.

This morning (4th), Kela was alone resting in the road between Kariba and Sibaka. A short search found everyone else except Temi resting in some bushes near water pan 2.

As the group shifted around and had a morning stretch they eventually settled in yet another bush. A rustle in the tall grass soon woke everyone back up though – all eyes flew open, perhaps still nervous about their new neighbour.  But it was just Temi, who zeroed straight in on Zulu for a head rub before settling in amongst the group.





Left-overs anyone?

2 11 2011

A wildebeest prevented the Dambwa pride from any Halloween shenanigans as they gorged themselves until they were the size and shape of pumpkins. By the end of the day, Rusha and Temi were slumped at Pan 3 and the KLs were incapacitated in the Sanga boundary, close to the carcass.

Today (2nd) Kela, Kwandi, Leya and Loma were first found heading south across Kariba. Initially we were picking up Rusha’s signal too, but as the KLs made their way steadily across the area, Rusha’s signal steadily grew quieter and quieter. We decided to stick with the four girls and see where they were headed and catch up with Rusha and Temi later.

They made a beeline for the carcass from the 31st, which still had a bit of dry-looking meat to it. Kwandi hogged the remains initially; every once in a while she’d stop and call softly in the direction from which the foursome had arrived – presumably to Rusha and Temi but neither replied or appeared. After 20 minutes or so, Kwandi left the carcass and went to clean her paws at which point Loma took over the remains. She only ate for a moment or two before dragging it over to where Kwandi and her sister, Leya, were sitting. She first groomed Leya’s face, then greeted Kwandi and then left the carcass to go and sit with Kela a few metres away as the other pair took control back of the food.

All this was being watched by a lone hooded vulture; who was eventually joined a few trees further down by a juvenile bateleur eagle who’d been practicing its aerial skills to the right of our truck. After a few minutes the juvenile began to make a fairly noisy racket; and as Mother swooped in with a mouse clutched between her talons it was clear why. As the juvenile bateleur began to feed the hooded vulture swooped over to try and steal – but Mother B was too quick and chased the vulture off.

And then we remembered we were meant to be watching the lions…

Kela had been fairly low key for most of the session until about half way through when she led the group on a second move further into the boundary and West. Luckily there was one – narrow – road through this area that we could just about keep tabs on them from.

As they settled we went off to look for Rusha and Temi and it wasn’t until we reached Chisamu that we finally started getting a strong signal for Rusha. After much checking under various bushes we eventually caught up with her sitting in a bush on top of an anthill; calling and looking restless. At first there was no signal for Temi but after a few minutes of Rusha’s vocalising we began picking up a very weak signal from her collar.

After breakfast we found that the pair had reunited and were now both sitting on top of the sheltered anthill resting. Rusha looked a lot less agitated than when we’d seen her earlier and the pair slept on throughout the morning. The KLs also caught up on some beauty sleep, remaining in the same spot in the boundary for the remainder of the day; all that walking earlier on must have taken it out of them.





Double trouble

29 09 2011

Before we’d even entered the site this morning we knew exactly where we would find the lions and what they’d be doing; thanks to the Dambwa security staff telling us!  At around 04:30 this morning staff at Lusaka Gate had heard the lions making a kill in the Tsavo area of the site and so naturally that’s where we headed straight away.

On arriving in Tsavo, sure enough, we found Kwandi and Rusha sitting proudly next to a half-eaten carcass and panting furiously with the effort of it all, Kela and Temi were about 30m away watching a bush to their right.  In this bush were Leya, Loma and a second wildebeest carcass, also half-eaten. The ladies had had a busy morning.

 

The kill sites were close by and the blood was still fresh on the grass; vultures were already circling above. Rusha went to eat from the carcass closest to her for a good 20 minutes or so before deciding she needed to drag it 30 odd metres away (maybe to burn off a few of those extra calories). As she was doing so, Leya was immediately up on her feet and approached her. Yesterday morning we saw a bit of kerfuffle between these two over the remains of their previous kill with Rusha emerging victorious; this time however, she made a few low moans and backed down immediately and let Leya eat alone.

 

Kela then sauntered over to feed from the second carcass and was shortly followed by Temi. With everyone crowding the area, Leya then thought it’d be a good idea to drag Rusha’s original carcass into the thicket where everyone else was sleeping and the second carcass was. The place was getting crowded and it was at this point that Rusha decided she needed a bit of space and went and found herself a spot of shade some 60m away.

 

But Leya had more than wildebeest wrestling to contend with this morning. Kela had come into oestrus shortly after the pride was released and during those few days Leya had been on the receiving end of Kela’s amorous behaviour. And this morning… Kela was back on heat; seemingly from nowhere, one minute she was eating quite happily, the next – boom, she was acting like a lovesick school girl! Once again, she only had eyes for Leya and greeted her repeatedly before flopping on top of her and rolling on her back. After several minutes of being harassed Leya finally snapped, bared her teeth and moved next to Kwandi. Kela clearly can’t take a hint, and swiftly followed.

 

Later in the day, and Temi had wandered over to join Rusha in a more exclusive patch of shade, and Loma and Kwandi were sticking to the other side of the bush well out of the way of Kela’s fussing. She’d calmed down a little since the morning but was still sticking close to Leya – who had found an excuse every once in a while to get away from her admirer by chasing the vultures away who were picking up the scraps of the lions’ latest meals.

 

 








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