A Killer of a Prize
December 19 2017

As research sessions with the Dambwa pride are occasionally unpredictable, the 15th of November was no different.  The research team entered the release site and began to make their way round the pride’s favourite places to rest.  With no sign of the lions, and the rain clouds getting darker, the team drove to the opposite end of the site where the pride tends to head in times of rain and windy weather.

In the middle of the road between the Sahara and Chisama areas of the site, rested Kela and LE3.  No other pride members were nearby, so the team decided to sit with the two for a time.  After a few bouts of unanswered contact calls, Kela and LE3, continued resting together under a tall tree.  So far, the research session was a relaxing one for all involved, with both of the lions sleeping peacefully.

Eventually, after another session of contact calling, LE3 moved off through the long grass towards the Tsavo area of the site, leaving Kela unaware of his absence.  The team followed.  A few hundred metres away, the rest of the pride were spotted heading back towards the direction of Kela.  The team followed behind as the pride walked past Kela and she got up and joined their movement.

The pride settled themselves down in an area of dense thickets, so the research team waited on a nearby road where they could occasionally see the flick of a tail and at least had full telemetry signal of the collared pride members.  It appeared that the lions were sound asleep when, all of a sudden, the distress call of an impala was heard.  Immediately, the research vehicle moved closer, looking for any indications of a kill, when Leya came prancing across the road with her ‘prize’, the back legs of an impala recently born into the release site, proudly in her mouth. 

Leya with her prize

Not giving it up for anyone

As the kill was made under heavy cover, no other pride members could be seen, so the team attempted to follow Leya, who quickly vanished into another area of dense thickets.  Using fresh tracks on the road, the team determined that the pride had moved off towards one of the water pans.  They found them resting in long grass in the Kariba area of the site, with Kwandi’s cheek entirely blood-stained and a faint splatter of blood on Zulu’s face.  The pride began an intensive self-grooming and allogrooming session then, one by one, they settled down to rest after a successful day’s hunting.

Blood-stained Kwandi

Zulu showing signs of the feast

Leya grooming Rusha 

A little after-dinner grooming for Kwandi

About the Dambwa Lion Release Site

The 6 adults (1 male and 5 females) of the ‘Dambwa Pride’ were captive born and released into the ‘Dambwa Lion Release Site’ in 2011, having been walked in the rehabilitation phase of the ex situ conservation project, the African Rehabilitation and Release into the Wild Programme.  The pride’s 6 offspring (3 male and 3 females) were born in the site and have had no human contact, display natural behaviours, and are intended for release into the wild in the final phase of the Programme.

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