On the 9th October we found all of the pride, bar Temi and Kela, in Puku Dambo sheltering from the heat under a massive bush. We left them briefly to look for the absentees who we found resting under another bush in the East of the site. Returning to the first group we found they were being watched, having now moved to Waterpan 3, by a herd of four puku. They were already sounding their alarm whistles indicating they had spotted the lions and were well aware of the danger.
RS1 - desperate for a puku snack
As the pride settled down around the waterpan the puku began to make their way across the area, sounding their alarm call as they went. RS1 was crawling out of her skin trying to peer at them through the bushes, but perhaps knew an approach wasn’t worth her while. A short time later her sister, RS3, noticed something utterly terrifying. As she rested next to the pan her tail had slipped into the water. On noticing this foreign object lurking just below the surface she leapt to her feet and began hissing at the water. Clearly not putting two and two together, now that her tail was no longer in the water, she proceeded up and down hissing every few paces searching for this horrifying threat to her wellbeing. Despite being 16 months old, there’s apparently still plenty for the RS cubs to learn!
RS3's fears are comprehensively ignored by mum, Rusha
The following morning (10th) we initially located Temi in Tsavo. Already close to 35◦C by 7:30 she was in no mood for doing much of anything. Besides, it looked like she’d potentially been up to plenty overnight – her snout covered in flies and her belly gently bulging suggested someone had maybe helped themselves to a midnight snack. Tsavo is one of the most open areas of the site. Whilst bookended with thick forest to the North and South it’s probably the closest thing in the site to what could be described as a vlei. The early burning carried out several months ago has created a sort of patchwork effect throughout, and initially we found Temi resting in the shade of a tree in a large burnt area. After 20 minutes or so, she sauntered a short distance and vanished into the tall grasses. We could only make out the twitching of her ear occasionally, and if we hadn’t of seen her walk into the grass, you certainly wouldn’t of known she was there. With those fresh shoots being so appetising to the game in the site, you couldn’t help but wonder if this was the current hunting strategy that appeared to be serving her so well.
Temi: ready for ambush, any place any time
Next we tracked Loma and Kela’s signals to a tricky area in the North West of the site. It’s one of those spots that if you really tried you can get to, but not without a lot of revving over gullies and through ditches. We decided to leave them in peace and look for everyone else. Temperatures were still climbing by the time we found the rest of the pride towards the southern treeline. Not surprisingly, it wasn’t an action-packed morning and at midday the mercury was past 40◦C.
Suffering through the midday heat: Leya and LE1
On the 15th in an effort to get some data before the temperature started cooking we went to the site a couple of hours earlier than usual. Kela came in for a bit of a kicking from the L sisters. Initially, the lions were scattered around in various small groups over about a 100m area. The most visible of which was Leya, Kela and LE1. Approaching Kela, LE1 initiated a play session with his aunt, who duly obliged. Perhaps mum felt things were getting a bit too rough, or was just in an antsy mood, but after a few minutes Leya charged Kela – lashing and swinging her forepaws, teeth bared. LE1 scampered out of the way, just in time to avoid Zulu who had left whatever it was he was doing to charge both Leya and Kela. Resettling, about 50m away Kela was now being stalked by Loma. A withering glance over her shoulder showed Kela cared much less about the argumentative aunt than the menacing mother and continued about her grooming. Unfortunately for Kela though, her day would get worse later on.
The RS cubs watch Zulu's tantrum from a safe distance
That afternoon, we returned to find the lions pretty much in the same area, but we were only interested in poor put-upon Kela. Having eluded us a few weeks ago when we changed sister Kwandi’s collar, the vet was back – just for Kela. With no other lions in need of darting, there was no warning for Kela as to what was about to take place and so the vet was able to quickly fire a dart into her rump. The rest of the pride scattered and Kela took off towards the waterpan as we inched closer to Kela to monitor her descent into unconsciousness. It was the same drill as before; old collar off and new collar on, updated vaccinations and a contraceptive implant. Within minutes of the reversal being given she was already blinking and twitching and showing signs of coming round. We stayed a little while longer until the vet was happy she was recovering properly. But as is Kela’s nature, she took the excuse for an extended afternoon nap – and after the day she’d had, who could blame her?
After a few days of once more getting over their distrust of vehicles, we spent a morning with the lions on the 19th by pan 3. Full bellies and big temperatures meant that once more observations were sedate at best. LE2 however did manage a stalk on a large flock of guinea fowl. Cunningly using her aunts Temi and Kela for cover the birds however were already perfectly well aware of the lions and had their beady eyes cast on the would-be hunter.
Temi and LE2