On the 20th the entire pride was resting on the edges of Kariba and the Acacia boundary. For the first time in many weeks the morning was cool and quite breezy, and the girls seemed to be enjoying relaxing in the fresh morning air.
After a little while Rusha moved into the boundary tree line to find some shade as the morning began to warm. She was soon followed by Leya, Loma and Kwandi. Kela, as usual, slept through the reshuffle, Temi woke briefly but was satisfied that she could still see her pride mates 30-odd metres away and went back to sleep.
But later in the day, all six were now in the tree line and were only visible from outside of the site. As we arrived for the mid-morning session we found Kela pottering around rather enthusiastically greeting her sister and then Leya.
A familiar pattern started to emerge; tail aloft, deep purring and repeatedly greeting Leya to the point of ridiculousness; Kela was back in heat. This is the fourth time Kela has been in heat in the last two months and each time it has been Leya who has come in for extra attention. Previously we’ve seen Leya be pretty tolerant of Kela’s behaviour – up to a point – but this time she was having none of it and bared her teeth every time Kela approached.
Still that didn’t deter Kela who lavished more than a dozen social interactions on an increasingly irate Leya in less than an hour.
The 21st and Kela and Kwandi were by themselves in Chobe. Signals suggested the rest of the pride were close by but not with the pair, and we found them resting in a thicket in neighbouring Chisamu. Leya seemed much happier in sister Loma’s company than she had the previous day rebuffing the extra attentions from Kela.
With a better visual of the group of four we remained with them for the majority of time to be able record any behaviours. We also conducted a game count; but what proved more interesting were some of the bird species we came across that are starting to occupy the site; we were lucky enough to spot an African Harrier-Hawk near Water Pan 1 and also a Bateleur adult with her young perched in the Sanga boundary.
As it turns out we probably should have stuck with the K sisters. At the end of the day when we went to check on their location before leaving the site to our utter astonishment having watched four lions sleep the majority of the afternoon, Kela and Kwandi were nowhere to be found.
At the K sisters’ last known location only a very weak signal for the pair could be picked up. The Chobe area of the site is covered in 4-5ft high grass and at this time of year the colour isn’t too dissimilar from a lion’s coat. The area is also rife with hidden ditches and potholes, which made tracking them down an activity not for the feint hearted.
After 20 minutes of following their signals we eventually found them almost slap bang in the middle of the area… acting like a pair of buffoons. They repeatedly greeted the other walking side by side before rolling on top of each other. It was quite evident that Kwandi was also now well and truly in throws of oestrus along with Kela.
With the sisters more than happy in one another’s company, we left them to it for the evening.