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…


It’s the quiet ones you have to watch…

17 12 2011

A run of incredibly bad weather which has more or less kept us out the site since Zulu’s release finally broke today.

We did manage a brief drive round the site during a lull between storms yesterday (16th) afternoon. But we literally only had time to find the lions and get back out again before the next torrent of water hit. Kwandi and Rusha were together in Kariba, Zulu was chilling near pan 2 with Kela, Loma and Leya, while Temi was up to something in the Acacia boundary. We didn’t get the chance to find out what.

This morning everyone was together on the border of Kariba and Sibaka. While the rain was holding off it was still an overcast morning and the cool weather gave rise to more activity than we’d bargained for. A short while after we arrived something caught the entire pride’s interest further up Sibaka towards the Sanga boundary. We watched as one by one the pride (including Zulu) crept off.

A brief glimpse of a herd of impala walking amongst the trees provided the answer to the “what are they up to?” question we were pondering. Watching and waiting, it was a good five minutes before we heard a commotion in the treeline – then all seemed to go quiet. Too quiet.

Suddenly half a dozen impala came flying out of the treeline followed by a blisteringly fast Loma only a couple of metres behind, and subsequently by Leya, Kwandi and Rusha.

The four raced out of our line of sight through the thickening vegetation, and we barely had time to catch our breath before out sauntered Zulu. He looked around, stuck his nose to the ground and like a tracker dog followed the clues all the way to his ladies and a dead impala.

By the time we’d caught up it seems he’d forced Rusha off the kill. She had blood on her coat but was now walking away from the group.

Kela and Temi hadn’t emerged from the treeline and Rusha headed back in that direction, calling for well over 10 minutes (as she often does when separated from Temi). The calling eventually drew Kwandi from the kill once she’d finished her piece. We hoped to catch up to them and that they would lead us to the others but we could only get a signal from Temi’s collar from the tree line. The likely scenario being that she too had caught some breakfast and no amount of calling from partner in crime Rusha was getting her to give it up.

Returning to the others, we found that Kela, Kwandi and Rusha had joined them, although Rusha was still restless.

Once the food was gone it was time for a social, Loma began stalking Kwandi but gave up before Kwandi even noticed and decided to opt for head rub instead. In turn, Kwandi went to greet Zulu – and all seemed well until she turned around and lashed out at him for apparently no reason. In fact many of the females seem a little tentative in their approach to their new pride mate. Even long-term associate and former walking partner, Leya, seemed a bit unsure – approaching Zulu for a greeting but changing her mind and sniffing his mane instead before retreating a few metres. Rusha remained some distance away peering at him from a bush for a few minutes before re-joining the group.

But then there’s Loma.

Having saved the day on Zulu’s release by frankly going to sort him out and demonstrating how to walk through a gate, she doesn’t seem the slightest bit fazed by his sudden presence – nor by the fact that he’s twice her size. After finishing her share of the kill she proceeded to bound all over him like a hyper-active puppy before the pair settled down to groom one another for a time. Eventually she left Zulu to groom a forlorn Rusha.

Later, Kwandi, Leya, Loma, Rusha and Zulu had made their way to the Acacia boundary to rest up for the day.

Temi and Kela had teamed up – with Temi looking a lot plumper than earlier in the morning – making their way up the main road through the site. They both looked frequently in the direction of the Acacia Boundary, but eventually settled next to the road.

Hunting in the green freshness of a post storm Dambwa

9 12 2011

On the 6th the pride had split into three groups, spread throughout the site; Loma and Leya were near water pan one, Rusha and Temi were at pan 2 while Kela and Kwandi were lounging around in Tsavo. We spent most of the day with the K sisters, being the most alert we thought there might be some chance of a bit of action from them at some point whilst the other remained comatose.

We were rewarded at mid-morning with a hunt. As we arrived after the breakfast break we found Kwandi alone on Tsavo; Kela’s signal was still in the area, but suggested she was quite some distance away. Kwandi’s eyes were locked on a herd of 30-odd impala milling around obliviously on the plain in front of her. There was relatively little cover for her to utilise, but undeterred she marched straight out into clear sight. Now, Kwandi’s a very good hunter and was so even as a cub (she made Livingstone’s first ever kill, and followed it up with three more before retirement from walking) – but even for her, this seemed like a lot of faith in her hunting abilities. And very quickly, sure enough the impala spotted her and gave a warning snort.

But she soldiered on nonetheless; now not even bothering to hunker down into a crouch but walking brazenly up to them. As they started to panic and move off she went into a slow chase just as Kela appeared racing out of the tall grass from the other side of the herd. Kwandi’s strategy was now clear – show herself and panic the herd into her sister’s direction who must have flanked around the entire section of the site as Kwandi bided her time in preparation. It nearly worked too, but the girls were just a fraction too early in their execution.

The 7th we were kept out of the site by the weather.  We attempted to enter in the afternoon, a few hours following the storm, but after 200m it became very clear we were going nowhere and nowhere quickly – except back out of the site.

Luckily the bad weather held off long enough for the area to dry out sufficiently for us to make a trip into the site the next morning. All six lions were back together near the main road through Kariba, resting throughout the morning the only point of note was when Loma, Leya and Rusha were panicked out of their slumber when a rotten branch fell out of the tree they were resting under, barely missing Rusha and Leya.

After breakfast we found them in more or less the same spot, but they had been joined by a waterbuck. We stopped a good 100m away from the lions and could see that Kela and Kwandi were already vigilant to the waterbuck, which was quite obliviously ambling along towards the Sanga boundary. Within seconds of our arrival Kela was up and stalking, swiftly closing the 120m distance between herself and the waterbuck – who still had not even the slightest inkling of the doom that was looming.

Kela was about half way across the area when Kwandi and Rusha stood and began to approach – at a slower rate, and within the blink of an eye Kela was right on its tail, literally only 10m away. The waterbuck never turned around but at that point seemed to spook and charged off to join some impala and zebra that were grazing 200m away. Kela watched on, but only stalked a little further before returning to the pride.


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