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.





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.





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 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.





The wind blows trouble into Dambwa

30 08 2011

The lions were last seen on the 28th heading intently after the wildebeest following a close hunt; most notably from Temi. However, despite expectations that overnight they would make a kill the six were found slumbered round an anthill on Tsavo this morning, using the rather pitiful cover of a couple of bare trees as shelter from some quite exceptional wind.

But none of them had the wind up their tail this morning, and apart from a bit of jostling for position they barely stirred. Power couple Leya and Kwandi snuggled up to one another for a bit of a greet and groom session (no doubt sharing plans on how to take over the world) and Temi managed to open her eyes briefly and spotted four impala about 150m away. But the area was too open, the wind was blowing the lions’ scent towards the prey and seemingly she just couldn’t be bothered.

Several vultures swooped in over the area during the course of the morning, so a search of Tsavo was undertaken on the off-chance another kill had been made. But no kill site could be located, and the lions’ stomachs seemed to be no bigger than yesterday.

Later this morning, smoke was seen close to the South Eastern boundary of the site, the lions seemed oblivious though, but the continued high winds were causing some concern. Kela and Leya became alert to a herd of wildebeest and impala some 150m away on Tsavo, whilst the others slept on. As the fire grew closer to the site research had to be put on hold, until it was brought under control – in the meantime, Temi had crept to within 20m of the wildebeest but the game was up when Rusha stumbled into the open.

By late afternoon the pride was in the Kariba area, all eyes except for Kwandi’s were fixed firmly on impala – but Kwandi wasn’t too far away… busy watching wildebeest. She soon made the short walk to join the rest of the group and in between bouts of nodding off, they seemed to take it in turns to keep an eye on the nearby prey.

 

With the high winds all day and apparently no kill since Saturday, it was still a bit of mystery as to why the lions had been in such a lazy mood all day – they weren’t heavy with food and the weather was perfect for play. But on the way out of the site the zebra provided some clues when a herd stepped across the road, one sub-adult had a painful looking injury to the chest… no doubt the work of one or more members of the pride; and probably what had kept the lions up past their bedtime last night.








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