The 24th of December was a sunny, but muddy, day in the Dambwa release site. After heavy rains the previous few days, the site had become a slippery ride for the research vehicle. The team arrived that morning and carefully maneuvered their way through the mud to find the pride resting on the edges of a dry sandy road in the middle of the site. With most of the lions accounted for, crunching noises could be heard coming from the long grass, in which hid RS1 - and an unknown meal.
The team could not see what she was eating, but as a juvenile puku was spotted in the area the previous day, that was a possibility. With a small blood spot visible on her chin, LE2 was resting 10 metres away from RS1, remaining vigilant. As she began to inch closer, RS1 protected her appetizer by snarling at LE2 who quickly sat back down again.
LE2 with a tell-tale blood stain
Once RS1 had finished her meal and moved back to sit with the pride, LE2 rose to her feet again to see if there was anything left to be scavenged. She sniffed the air, displayed a Flehmen grimace, and then walked back to the road unrewarded. LE1, who had been watching curiously, also went to investigate. He too smelled around the area and grimaced. Finding nothing to hold his attention, LE1 flopped down to rest with his brother under a nearby tree. With their interest now piqued, Leya and Rusha both followed suit, one-by-one investigating the area and also showing the Flehmen grimace. Rusha decided to feed on some remaining pieces of the kill, crunching away in the long grass. As she raised her head to tear at a piece of meat, the research team caught a glimpse of the food, which had a yellow colour to it. Having had her share, Rusha then moved back to the shade, allowing RS1 to return for seconds.
LE2 shows off her Flehmen grimace
RS1 heads back to a shady spot
Rusha goes to investigate
Eventually, the pride became disinterested in the kill, so the research team was able to move in to see what all the fuss was about. Fragments of a shattered tortoise shell were found scattered in the long grass; a little smaller than a puku but, nonetheless, still impressive!
The remains of the spoils; a tortoise
Little did the pride know that this was only an entrée to the main course of their Christmas feast, with a scavenge awaiting them further away in the release site. The day progressed with the December sun beating down and the pride sleeping peacefully. That was until Rusha caught a glimpse of vultures flying over the release site. She knew this meant there was food to be found and ran off down the road, right in the direction of the scavenge. After a short delay, the rest of the lions realised why Rusha had moved off and headed in the same direction. The pride found their Christmas feast and - just like the research team - spent their Christmas with full hearts…and full bellies!
Happy New Year from the research team and the Dambwa pride.
Kela, Leya, and LE1 resting before the scavenge was found
LE3 with his share of the feast
Kwandi tucks in