It’s been quite an eventful few weeks (which is quickly becoming the norm here). Given the size of Matusadona National Park and number of prides here, it is a given that I often miss the more exciting moments lions can offer. Fortunately, the guides of Changa Safari Camp, amongst others, often assist me with sightings and reporting back. On August 6th, a report came from a very concerned guide detailing that Eastern Pride lioness F107, ‘Elizabeth’, was injured. A large swelling of her front right leg and little movement, as evident from her fitted satellite GPS collar, had many of us who know this particular lioness rather worried. Elizabeth is currently caring for a single female cub F125, ’Suzie Q’ who, at around six months old, is largely dependent on her mother, so her health is of the utmost importance. However, as is often the case with lions, the injury disappeared as soon as it emerged and the pride were sighted the following day gorging on a 13-foot long crocodile.
By mid-month, it was again the Changa Safari Camp guides who came to my aid. A report came in from a sighting of the Kanjedza Pride. A brief rumble from the disturbed lionesses resulted in the sightings of three cubs in tow. It was never confirmed whether lioness F101, ‘Ivory’, had in fact lost her suspected litter after a mating bout witnessed with pride male M108, ‘Toulouse’ in May. Were these the mysterious cubs? Fortunately, I was able to track down the pride recently and was rewarded with a fantastic sighting of the three cubs in wonderful condition, milling between the two doting mothers Ivory and F115, ‘Kanjedza’. The cubs are estimated to be five months old and two have been confirmed as males.
Another elephant kill has also been recorded this month, taking the total of recorded kills to 24. The Jenje Boys cohort are averaging one kill a month, however this kill also saw the presence of the Eastern Pride. Did they partake in the hunt? Again, the kill site was located on slightly uneven terrain in thick mixed combretrum scrub. Shortly after this kill, the male cohort returned to the hills where they have been residing the majority of the time for the last two months. Are there new males in the area? What are they sustaining on in the escarpment?
The recent camera trap survey, now completed by WildCru and Zambezi Society, has shown the hills are still home to some fantastic herds of game. However, the survey also picked up an unknown lion to the study - a young male, most likely a nomad but with a clearly visible snare wound. Cameras are now being deployed in this area and research efforts will be concentrated here in hopes of locating the male to have the snare removed. Although a terrible burden, the snare does not appear to be hindering the young male as of yet, who is in good condition and evidently able to move large distances.
This male would also be an ideal individual to fit with a satellite GPS collar. Young males during their nomadic phases can help highlight potential wildlife corridors, areas of conflict, and give a general insight into the permeability of a landscape for lions to move through. Another such male was M111, ‘Shenga’, the young male who migrated from the Tashinga Pride early 2015. Plans had been made to collar him and his brother M112, ‘Gubu’. Sadly however, I was notified by the Bumi Hills Foundation that Shenga died rather suddenly.
He was located and observed on August 8th with a swollen front limb and respiratory problems. By nightfall his condition deteriorated further and he passed away whilst under observation. A post mortem was unfortunately inconclusive, other than showing blood that had filled the lungs. It seems he had succumbed to an acute pulmonary condition; yet the cause is a mystery. This has now left Gubu alone to defend his new pride females of the Bumi Hills area without his peer. A sighting of six young cubs to the lionesses suggests he and his late brother successfully sired this new litter/s, however the likelihood of Gubu defending the pride alone from new incoming, and likely larger, males is slim.
About the Matusadona Lion Project (MLP)
Since its commencement in 2014, the MLP, in partnership with the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, aims to determine the population status and ecology of lions in Zimbabwe’s Matusadona National Park. The last census in 2005 suggested that just 28 individuals remained, down from nearly 90 in 1998, raising concerns over the population’s long-term viability. The MLP is collecting data on individual lions, pride structure and distribution, as well trying to understand the environmental and human-induced pressures facing Matusadona’s lions. This project directly contributes to the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority’s conservation and management plans for this apex predator.
Support the Matusadona Lion Project
MLP is looking for funding to cover the running costs of the project (such as vehicle repair and fuel) as well as to acquire additional equipment (camera traps and tracking collars) to increase the amount of data being collected. If you are able to help please make a donation here, or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for alternative support options.