Irony

26 10 2011

By the 22nd the Kela and Kwandi were back with the rest of their pride, in Bwizu. Neither seemed to be showing the strong signs of heat of the previous few days, but both were restless, fidgeting incessantly, and were much more alert than their companions.

 

A wildebeest was missing from our game count today; none of the lions appeared to be very heavy but there was definitely one less than the day before and so we had to assume they had killed it soon after we left on the 21st and had had several hours to digest it already.

 

The morning of the 23rd and everyone was close to pan one in Kariba. Within minutes of our arrival Leya had initiated a mass greeting session among the pride. She wasn’t displaying to quite the same degree as Kela had previously nor was there any purring; but being a usual greetee rather than greeter, the gusto with which she greeted everyone – Kwandi, and her sister Loma, on several occasions – all within the space of a minute suggests she may too be coming into heat. Somewhat ironic considering her reaction to Kela only a few days ago.

 

By mid-morning a herd of grazing zebra 200m away from the lions was causing no small amount of interest. The zebra were oblivious to the lions presence and continued grazing for the entire mid-morning session; luckily for them while they had several pairs of eyes trained on them it was clearly too hot for the lions to do much more than watch their every move from the comfort of the shade.

 

 





The sisters who stay together… do unspeakable things together!

24 10 2011

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.





The Dambwa girls earn their stripes

4 10 2011

Recently the lions have been spending a lot time in the Sahara area of the site digesting all the wildebeest from earlier in the week.  On the morning of the 29th Loma and Rusha were missing from the group’s favoured spot in this area. Having found the other four a stone’s throw away from where they’d spent all day on the 28th the absentees’ signals led us to neighbouring Chisamu. Try as we might however, we just couldn’t get a visual of them.

Returning to Kela, Kwandi, Leya and Temi it wasn’t long before we heard the gentle calling of a lost lion. Making her way through the grass was Loma. The closer she got the more apparent the rather fresh blood on her face became and after several greetings to her pride mates she flopped down and the stomach size told the rest of the story. Ten minutes later and Rusha repeated the process; complete with rouged cheeks.

None of the other lions bore these tell-tale signs, and with Loma and Rusha being two of the weakest hunters in the pride, it’s encouraging to see that they can pool their collective efforts and come up with something even if they don’t have the star hunters like Leya, Kwandi and Temi around. Game counts later that day suggest their victim was impala.

By afternoon the main order of the day was of course rest. That was until Kela woke up…

Having come into oestrus on the 27th she was still troubling Leya and throughout the afternoon Kela would rush over to her, lie on top of her, run off, roll around on her back for a bit, before repeating the process over and over again. The sounds coming from Leya’s direction made it clear she was enjoying this extra attention about as much as you’d enjoy having teeth pulled.

On the 1st October, their signals led us to Chobe – and straight to the same thicket they’d been in on the 8th September. On that occasion we’d just been able to make out their forms and that of a wildebeest carcass. Today however they were so deep into it no visual could be made. What we could see however were a couple hooded vultures perched close by; but the terrain made it impossible for us to get to their location. So it was time for another game count.

So far we’ve seen the lions mainly target the wildebeest with the odd puku and impala thrown in for variety’s sake. On the game count we found that there was a zebra missing; the pride’s first since being released. After completing the count we returned to the source of the lions’ signals but nothing could be seen or heard. Still, it didn’t take Miss Marple to work out that one missing zebra plus vultures close by to the lions’ location is likely to equal six very full bellies.





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.

 

 





A romantic breakfast for one

25 09 2011

The lions were dotted around water pan 2 this morning (24th Sep). While most of the pride lay resting in the tall grass (very well camouflaged) Kela and Kwandi were soaking in the sun together out in the open, while we could only get a signal for Leya coming from the Acacia boundary.

 

On our way to their location earlier, we’d passed some wildebeest grazing on Puku Dambo – while their behaviour seemed relaxed as we drove by, the Ks’ stomach sizes suggested that perhaps the night hadn’t been quite the same scene of peace of tranquillity for them. As the morning wore on Bateleur eagles, hooded vultures and an African Harrier Hawk started to crowd the sky a little south of the lions’ location.

 

Rusha eventually emerged from the grass and after a quick drink settled down with the Ks. Kwandi had shown some mild signs yesterday that she was following in Kela’s footsteps and coming into oestrus. A greeting from Rusha had been the trigger for this behaviour; and this morning as Rusha greeted Kwandi she was again immediately up on her feet, lifting her tail in the air and running a circle around Rusha.

 

Not long afterwards, Rusha and Kwandi made a move South.  Leaving the others at water pan two we caught up to them on Lusaka Road. On the right side of the track were the remains of a very recent wildebeest kill, on the left Rusha watched as Kwandi gnawed away on the wildebeest’s head in the tall grass. Despite being the primary object of Kwandi’s affection at present, all the love was gone – there was no chance of a meal for two. Rusha eventually took the hint and moved back in the direction from which they’d arrived.

 

Later in the day and Kela, Temi and Loma were resting around an anthill mid-way between pan 2 and the kill site, Kwandi was keeping an eye on some puku between this trio and the water pan while Rusha and Leya’s signals were coming from the Acacia boundary.

 

We’d seen all the lions except Leya at some point during the morning – but her as much as we scanned the boundary we just couldn’t locate her. Then finally as we were about to leave for the day we caught a glimpse of her in the treeline looking rather content with her lot.

 

 





Kela coming on strong

9 09 2011

The morning of 8th September got off to a lively start; the signals leading us along the Sanga boundary. Within minutes we saw Leya, Loma and Kela racing through the tall grasses of Chobe. Pouncing on something in the grass Leya immediately started dragging it towards the nearest thicket and was swiftly followed by Kela and Loma. Signals showed the rest of the pride were also in the vicinity but the vegetation was just too thick to see who was where and doing what. We caught the odd glimpse of Kela chowing down on what appeared to be a wildebeest… but for the rest of the morning and mid-morning this was the best sighting we had.

Returning in the afternoon, hopes were high that the cooling temperatures would lead the lions out of what was rapidly becoming the most hated clump of bushes in the site; and Kela finally answered these prayers. Ambling around and greeting first Leya then Rusha she began to move north towards waterpan 2, with Leya, Temi and Kwandi following. Rusha immediately began feeding on what was left and Loma… well, she was in there somewhere as well.

The four made their way across Bwizu before stopping at the pan and taking on more water than the Titantic. Kela had been showing signs yesterday afternoon of coming into oestrus – and as the others settled down for a bit more rest, she seemed somewhat distracted. After milling around the pan, and eating some mud, she then set her sights on Leya; what started out as a regular social greeting turned into a bit of a performance which saw Leya actually leave the grouping and head back in the direction from which they’d arrived. There was no aggression, just the feeling that perhaps Leya wasn’t quite feeling the same love.

Watching the attention of affections wander back off into the distance Kela then too left the group, but only moved part way back across Bwizu towards Lusaka Road. Sitting on her own, she cut a lonely figure for several minutes until Loma pitched up from Chobe, after a quick stop for a greeting or two Kela was left alone once more as Loma headed towards Temi and Kwandi at the waterpan. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em – and that’s what Kela did; turning tail and teaming back up with her sister, Loma and Temi. This time Loma came in for a bit of overly-enthusiastic greeting, but this time Kela got a much kinder reception.

Leaving this idyllic scene, we stopped back in once more in Chobe and found Leya finally getting the peace she craved with only Rusha’s gnawing on the latest set of remains to disturb her.








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