A pain in the grass…

6 03 2012

Wednesay (29th) we joined the pride on the border of Tsavo and Kulibe in what is probably the only clearing left in the site. It was a quiet day – apart from one rather inappropriate move Loma pulled on Leya.

Later in the week they were in Kariba. We spent an entertaining two hours with the only visible part of any of the lions being Kela’s bottom. After breakfast however, things livened up a bit. As we arrived we found them all sitting under a bush watching a guinea fowl in the tree above them that was screeching its head off. After several minutes, the lions had lost interest and the bird eventually seemed to calm down (no doubt its being up a tree had something to do with the seven lions) and flew to the ground about 30 metres past the lions.

The bird then proceeded to continue its calling whilst walking back in the direction of the lions. Rusha finally roused herself from the bush and peered around a tree to watch as it waddled closer. As it then turned off in a different direction still advertising its position louder than was wise, Rusha began to follow. She seemed to get to within 10 metres of it before losing it in the grass and returning to the pride.

Monday (5th) and after stopping by one of the lions’ recent feeding sites, we tracked their signals down to a bush on the edges of Bwizu and Chobe. No matter which side we came from the lions couldn’t be seen, so we decided to check water levels at the three pans. Returning to the bush on the off-chance the lions had moved out of it we found that now their signals weren’t even emitting from the area. But we were able to follow some rather fresh prints to their new location at pan 2. But they were no more visible here either.

Luckily Kela saved the day by sitting just within sight, but the rest we could only listen to as they shuffled around in the grass. A brief glimpse of Temi and an even briefer one of Kwandi helped pass the afternoon, but we spent the session watching Kela as she enjoyed the afternoon breeze.

Found (sort of): one ex-bird

4 11 2011

Some cooler and breezy weather over the last few days have given rise to a few signs of activity in the Dambwa pride.  This morning (3rd) Kela, Kwandi, Loma and Leya were once more in Kariba, close to water pan 1. An enormous greeting session was in progress as we arrived which threatened to knock a couple of lions off of their feet, such was its vigour.

Eventually they settled down, only for Loma to become alert to a herd of impala and a lone puku grazing the other side of water pan 1; 150m away.

Loma isn’t much of hunter and made no approach, but what she lacks in action and tactics she makes up for with vigilance and didn’t take her eyes of the herd until the others had caught on about 10 minutes later. Kariba is one of the areas hit by fire prior to the lions’ release and with no rains as yet, it’s a bit barren making stalking in broad daylight something only the most skilful hunter could attempt.

Enter Leya.


A thorn in the foot almost foiled her attempt a mere five metres into the stalk, but she picked it out and soldiered on another few metres to the next tree with a better vantage point.

Water pan 1 is set in a natural riverbed and during the dry season water is pumped in. With nothing to hide behind in her approach, Leya patiently waited until almost all the herd had made their way down the bank to drink so that she could approach unnoticed. Covering a further 80m in the blink of an eye she found a bush to hide in just 20m away from the riverbed. Soon Kwandi followed, and even Loma got involved, and they took up their positions about 50m behind Leya. Kela kept an eye out from a safe distance.

As the herd climbed back out of the riverbed and turned their backs to the lions they began grazing again, heads down and oblivious. Leya rose from her position to cover the last stretch but was spotted just before she could make it to the water pan. Game over.

Meanwhile, Rusha and Temi were in Kulibe. In the local dialect kulibe means nothing, literally. This corner of the site is so named because there is nothing there except a wall of trees and grass, and you can see… nothing. The signals appeared to place them pretty much in the middle of all this nothing, and we didn’t have a rat’s chance in Kulibe of seeing them.

By mid-morning the KLs were in more restive form in Kariba and Rusha and Temi were still in Kulibe. As we conducted our daily game count we found evidence that while the morning’s impala hunt hadn’t gone quite to plan, sometime overnight someone had possibly caught themselves a bird (any ideas what type, answers on a postcard please) at waterpan 2; a light snack that should keep them going until the next big meal.

Kela & Rusha have their first tiff

31 10 2011

The Dambwa pride have kept themselves busy over the weekend with a zebra kill which occupied most of Saturday, and by Sunday we found them relaxing by water pan 3.  Wildebeest and some impala were nearby – although just out of sight; but when we arrived everyone was alert and scanning the area in the game’s direction. With the weight of their latest meal in their bellies no one seemed overly keen to go looking for them though.

We witnessed the first bit of discord between pride members that couldn’t be explained away by food or oestrus. Kela had been sitting about 20m away from the rest of the pride –watching out for whatever game species had caught their attention earlier. Sometime after our arrival she approached Rusha greeted her and then sat before deciding that she didn’t actually want to sit there at all. As she stood and turned, Rusha sniffed at Kela and grabbed one of her back legs. Kela is probably the most placid lion ever to have existed, but for whatever reason she span and lunged at Rusha before going to sit on her own again.

Rusha followed and went round the other side of the water pan, watching Kela. After 10 minutes of eyeing a sleeping Kela intently, Rusha crept round and sniffed her again. This time there was no drama and Rusha decided it was best to go and sleep in a bush.

By mid-morning everyone had shifted into the Acacia boundary and out of our sight; so it was time for a game count.

Despite, or in spite of, the lions’ hunting success some of the prey populations in the site are actually managing to sustain and even increase their numbers. For instance, “Baby” (probably quite unwise to get so attached to it as to name it…); a three month old puku was born in the site not much more than a week before the lions’ release. No one expected him/her to last very long, but the herd have obviously done an excellent job of keeping the young one safe and has learnt how to avoid the six lions (hopefully). It also looks as if a number of the females are also pregnant, which bodes well for their sustainability within the site.

Bird watch also continues, and to add to the list of impressive avian occupants we recently saw a Yellow-Billed Kite and on the game count yesterday a Steppe Eagle.

%d bloggers like this: