A feast fit for a pride… or two

4 12 2011

Wednesday 30th November found all of the pride looking fat and content near waterpan 2. It was painfully obvious that since we had last visited them last they had eaten something, but search the area as we might we couldn’t find the source of the bulging waistlines.

Still, even the extra weight didn’t stop Leya making mischief with sister Loma.

On Friday (2nd), we weren’t really too sure what had happened…

The morning started off peacefully enough with the KLs eyeing up a waterbuck in Kariba but still a little weighted down from the last meal didn’t do anything about it. Rusha and Temi had headed off in the opposite direction and were resting happily in the shade of a tree in Tsavo. By mid-morning the KLs had drifted off to sleep but as we returned to Rusha and Temi, the pair had just got up and started to stalk off into the Acacia treeline. Quickly switching off the engine, the shapes of Temi stalking directly and Rusha taking a right flank were just visble.

But we couldn’t see what they were stalking and to begin with weren’t even sure that they in fact were. Once they disappeared out of sight and further into the treeline we could only guess at what was going on. Until… a sudden crash of branches indicated the chase was on and from the sounds of it, Temi had initiated it. We caught a brief glimpse high up in the tree line of Rusha racing across to assist and were able to follow the progress of what we still assumed was a hunt by the shaking trees. Then confirmation: the unmistakable sounds of an animal caught. We knew it was big from the sounds, which meant either zebra (unlikely, they’re rarely in the thickets), waterbuck (possible, but again unlikely as they usually are spotted elsewhere in the site) or eland.  As the pandemonium in the trees escalated we could only listen.  Without achieving even a glimpse of what  the %$@* was going on we had to admit defeat and leave the area and leave the pair to their meal.

Catching up with Kela, Kwandi, Leya and Loma we arrived just in time to see Kwandi initiate a hunt on some zebra close to water pan 1. As her group mates watched on, she began the stalk from 150m and considering how open the area was she made rapid progress. But was spotted at around 30m. Kwandi continued to pursue for a while, but the game was up. For now.

Weather kept us out of the site on Saturday; a huge storm the previous night making many of the roads un-drivable.

Today (4th) we caught up with the Kela/Kwandi gang the other side of water pan 1 sitting around the remains of a zebra kill. It seemed perhaps Kwandi hadn’t given up quite so easily!  Rusha and Temi were still up in Tsavo, and Rusha seemed in restless form.

Luckily for us Rusha’s mooching around eventually lead us to where the pair had dragged the kill from Friday. It was indeed an eland. These antelope are ginormous; and having had the thing to themselves for the past two days so were Rusha and Temi. The carcass was best part of 70% utilised and now the remaining meat is starting to green. Neither looked capable of shoving another mouthful in… but were equally unwilling to give up the spoils to the collecting vultures.


A change of diet

24 11 2011

It’s been a busy few days in Dambwa with the arrival of more game species to the site ahead of the rainy season. The 21st saw the introduction of more puku and impala as well as new challenges for the lions; eland and waterbuck.

Yesterday (22nd) we attempted to enter the site but were soon forced out by a fairly severe downpour. In the 20 short minutes we’d managed to be in the site, we’d spotted Temi sitting in the Acacia boundary at the Kariba end of the site.  She appeared to be alone but was too far up into the tree line to make out if she was merely sheltering from the storm or up to something more cunning.

The signals for the rest of the pride led us to the other side of Kariba; however the rains were turning the black cotton soil into a swamp and try as we might we couldn’t reach them without risking getting stuck. Trying to view the remaining five lions from outside of the site we managed to see they had two “lumps” of something from which they were feeding. The only lion to give us a good view for a few brief minutes was Kela, who came out from the bush rolled around on her back for a bit in front of sister Kwandi before going back into the bush.

With no rain for the rest of the day or overnight we tried our luck again this morning (23rd) and found the ground had dried out sufficiently. As we approached the last sighting of Kela and the other four in her group the previous day we were greeted by dozens of yellow-billed kites, hooded and white-backed vultures which were swarming all over the trees. Making our way to the spot we found the source of their interest; yesterday’s breakfast – puku.

However the lions’ signals led us to the Acacia boundary; as we approached we could see Kela sitting at the edge of the boundary near the road, the rest we were getting strong signals for but couldn’t see. Eventually we found Temi keeping the half-eaten remains of an eland company, and a rather rotund-looking Kwandi, Rusha, Leya and Loma close to her. Temi managed to wake briefly and shovel a few more mouthfuls down before collapsing next to Kwandi and resuming her rest.

By mid-morning Kela had moved off (Temi was now eating a little more enthusiastically, but the others slept on) and we caught up to her as she approached water pan 3. Yesterday morning she’d showed some mild signs of oestrus rolling on her back several times; today as she walked towards the water pan her tail flicked in the air continuously before she then called a few times to the water and flopped back down.

Obviously the lions have been getting well acquainted with the new game so we undertook a game count. We located some of the new waterbuck but the remaining eland sensibly seem to be hiding.

As we were making our way around the site, we bumped into all six lions who had regrouped and were now resting in Kariba. Loma looked like she was ready to be sick with the effort of the move on such a full belly, Kwandi wasn’t fairing too much better and the others panted with the hideous exertion of it all.

Heading off once more in search of the remaining elands we again came up short. On returning to the lions for a final check before leaving the site Temi was leaving the group and heading back in the direction of the eland carcass. Ten points to her for the effort; the remaining five may need to be rolled from their current positions if they have any thoughts of moving anytime soon…

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