An Injury for Ivory
November 26 2014

We’ve been given a few hours of sporadic relief here with some impromptu rain this week. The wind has been quite impressive; blowing in from across the lake we had a 20 degree drop in temperature mid-week.  The impala ewe’s are becoming ever more swollen as they near their time to begin lambing, and I caught a glimpse of possibly the first impala lamb of the season on Muuyu Island. 

After finishing the elephant kill in the Gordon’s Bay area the lion sightings have been short this week.  I located the 3 Eastern Pride girls on the 19th on Muuyu Island having heard they had passed through camp the previous night.  Quite often when Rhino Safari Camp is closed the lions pass through the quiet camp, sometimes inspecting the pool and foundations of the platform based bedrooms.  Whilst watching the females, and noting both F105, “Sanyati” and F109, “Matusadona” showing signs of pregnancy, a lone lion could be heard nearby.  Having followed the tracks of a male lion heading West from the Jenje River area I presumed one of the males had made his way to the Island.  Apparently the females had no interest in socialising with the unknown caller and headed straight towards camp instead.  I attempted to locate the male after losing the lionesses to the scrub and found he had decided to pass through camp also.  Myself, and the staff carrying out maintenance at the camp, drove to our bedroom doors that night!

The next day signal indicated collared lioness F107, “Elizabeth”, headed to the Mucheni Spring and presumably alongside her pride members took down a substantial kill as they did not appear to move off for 24 hours, and attracted a large flock of vultures, sadly out of view.

I headed back East and focused efforts on the Kanjedza Pride, particularly collared lioness F101, “Ivory”. Once again she is back to her elusive best and keeping out of sight, however on the 21st I picked up very strong signal for the ‘Look Out’ road area near the Kanjedza River.  Some fisherman in the bay there informed me they had spotted a lone lioness heading into the scrub, limping. The thick mud across the bay meant crossing was not possible so I waited until nightfall in hopes of seeing “Ivory” moving off, but this was all in vain. The next morning signal indicated the lioness had not moved off, and my concerns grew.  Was this limp a serious injury? I spotted both fresh cheetah and male lion spoor whilst trying to figure out a path to access “Ivory” and wondered if she was not alone.

After finding an elephant trail I managed to wind my way to the peninsula “Ivory” was resting on. Lying out in the open I could see her left forepaw was badly injured. A large open wound by the ankle joint was seeping whilst the paw itself was swollen with smaller cuts. Holding the paw tentatively as she repositioned to rest it seemed she was in discomfort, however many animals mask their pain/discomfort very well. It also seemed she had not fed substantially in some time, and was appearing very lean, but still showing signs of suckling. 

She appeared to be in quite an anxious disposition, continuously looking around, remaining vigilant.  Suddenly she sprung to her paws and sprinted across the sandbank - her injury miraculously all the better.  She has spotted a small water monitor lizard and after a few side dives in the sand grabbed the small reptile. Presumably not wishing to waste a morsel she ate the entire lizard but all the while refraining from using her forepaw. 

Matusadona Lion Project

Matusadona Lion Project

She spent the rest of the day in the nearby tree line keeping an ever watchful eye out across the bay. I suspect she may have been involved in a fight with, or attack from, one of the ‘Jenje Boys’ males, although one would expect to see other injuries elsewhere on the body rather than located to one area. Her constant vigil of her surroundings did however further suggest a fight with a lion had ensued. After managing to get some rest and tending to her wounds she moved off and, to my relief, with little strain on her paw. The wounds are no doubt sore but fortunately do not appear to be too burdensome. I am concerned however as to the wellbeing of her 2 dependent cubs. Has the possible run-in with another lion been consequence of protecting her cubs?

Whilst spending the day with “Ivory" impala alarms calls were heard across the bay, yet no predator could be seen. I had suspected perhaps the cheetah, whose spoor I had found in the morning, was still around, and perhaps if a kill was made “Ivory” may very well have an opportunity to improve her body condition with an easy steal. 

By the evening “Ivory” headed further West just when another round of alarm calls was heard. It was the female cheetah, and she had killed an impala.

Matusadona Lion Project

Riga-mortis had set in indicating the kill had most likely taken place during the morning alarm calls. As the cheetah enjoyed her spoils baboons were heard shouting across the bay as “Ivory” continued on. It is fascinating to observe predators recognising the alarm calls of other species and how each predator will use such signs to their advantage by scavenging and/or avoiding confrontation. The cheetah, now aware of someone else’s presence, kept an eye out over her shoulder as night fell. At least one cat was enjoying a good meal that evening. 

A close eye is being kept on “Ivory” to monitor her injury and in hopes of dispelling concerns for her litter. She has shown she is still more than capable of providing for herself and it is hoped perhaps some alone time to rest will aid her recovery. 

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