On the sunny afternoon of 16th April, just ten members of the Ngamo pride were blissfully resting in the ‘Etosha’ area of the release site when, rather surprisingly, Nala appeared with meat clenched between her jaws. AT1 was first to awaken, rising to approach Nala to gain a better look. On noticing AT1’s movement, the rest of the females quickly rushed towards Nala too. The burst of activity stirred the males from their rest and, as soon as they realised that Nala had food, they also began to approach. It is becoming a more regular occurrence that AS5 will steal Nala’s food from her, so the research team were not surprised to see the young male give chase, causing Nala to run away, the meat falling to the ground as she fled. After all the fuss, AS5 simply sniffed at the meat and, as Nala and the pride began to move on, he followed; leaving his steal on the floor uneaten.
Being a lower ranking female, Nala has had plenty of experience of having her food seized from her and so one would think that when she gets the chance to feed in privacy and away from her competitive pride mates, she would make the most of it. Unfortunately, that day, Nala found out the hard way that coming out of hiding and returning to the pride with a piece of meat was a big, big mistake.
A few days later, food availability was again a hot topic in Ngamo. On the 22nd, the research team had located Phyre, Nala, AT1, KE3, KE4 and AS4 all resting together in ‘Camp’, and it wasn’t long before Kwali and Kenge arrived to join the females to laze in the morning sun. The team spent a little time with the girls before they headed off to locate missing Ashanti and the males. They headed to ‘Serengeti East’ as the pride had recently been in this area, feeding close to waterhole two. As the team moved slowly around the area, they spotted Ashanti, secluded in a bush and feeding on scraps. They were jotting down the GPS location of Ashanti when what sounded like growls was heard, and so they quickly switched off the engine of the research vehicle to listen more clearly. Sure enough, the low guttural rumbles of Milo and AS5 were coming from within a thicket; the two males undoubtedly in some sort of contest over the remaining meat. The rumbles must have attracted the attention of the females, as it wasn’t long before they began to filter through the long grass and KE3, AS4 and Nala headed into the same thicket. Milo was clearly in no mood to allow the girls access, and he unleashed an attack, sending them fleeing for safety in all directions.
As is often the case, Milo’s aggressive behaviour was, however, no deterrent for alpha female Phyre. She boldly approached the thicket and sat biding her time for the perfect opportunity to gain a share of the remains. With visibility into the dense vegetation being a little poor, the team missed Phyre seize her chance, but what they did witness was her victorious dash from the area, clenching a sizeable chunk of meat in her mouth! As the team concluded their data collection for the morning and headed away, they caught sight of a hopeful Kwali sitting near to Phyre, perhaps waiting for her long-time pal to allow her to join her for breakfast.
Phyre and Kwali
About the Ngamo Lion Release Site
The 6 adults (1 male and 5 females) of the ‘Ngamo Pride’ were captive born and released into the ‘Ngamo Lion Release Site’ in 2010, 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 5 offspring (1 male and 4 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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