Don't tell mum the babysitter's... asleep
December 11 2013

On the morning of the 3rd December most of the pride was resting the day away in Puku Dambo, close to Pan 3. Rusha and the cubs were noticeably absent and Rusha’s signal was coming from the Northern Boundary around Pan 2 early that morning; an area we’ve seen her retrieve her cubs from on multiple occasions over the months.

But when we eventually caught sight of her later that morning it was by herself as she made her way across Sahara in the East of the site. She was homing in on a mixed herd of impala and puku; which spotted her just as she launched into a chase from about 30m away. Still she took up sentinel on the edge of the thicket where the herd had been feeding. After about 20 minutes she began to stalk through the thicket, presumably towards some straggler on the other side; but it was at that point we lost sight and track of her.

Rusha waits patiently to ambush

Later in the week, on the 8th, the first lions we encountered were Rusha’s cubs, seemingly on their own, making a run for it across Tsavo, to the West. A few minutes later Rusha appeared and called them once.  Stopping the cubs in their tracks  they bounded back towards their mother. Leading her off-spring back East, the young family re-joined the rest of the pride who were  settled in the boundary. At some point over the morning, the cubs vanished again, and by mid-morning Kela had set off on her own too and was now resting alone in a thicket in the South East of the site.

Rusha leads her cubs back to the pride

Waking from her mid-morning sleep, Rusha appeared to notice that none of her cubs were around and called twice. Getting no response, she stood and began to head East, calling every 20-30 seconds, just as we lost sight of her Kwandi rose and followed Rusha. We could hear Rusha, but couldn’t see her anymore until she began to track back West and then North - disappearing into the boundary. We could still hear her regular calls, but after five minutes of helping Kwandi decided all hope was lost and threw herself down in the shade of a tree. Re-appearing from the boundary Rusha repeated her circuit -  watched by Leya, Kwandi, Loma, Temi and Zulu - calling all the time but there was no reply.

The search must have been successful in the end as we arrived on the afternoon of the 9th to find Rusha arriving with her cubs to a zebra kill, which had literally just happened minutes before. Kela, Kwandi and Leya were huffing and puffing as if they’d just completed a marathon, whilst Loma and Zulu got stuck in; most likely the KL trio were the responsible party for the latest zebra’s demise.

The guilty party?

While the carcass was dragged into deep cover, we could hear the cubs crying, Zulu grumbling, and bones crunching. But could see very little of what was actually going on. But it was what came out of the boundary that caught our attention; about 60m East of where the kill was being devoured a herd of rather nervous looking zebra tip-toed out of the tree line. All the lions were either feeding, or resting except one; Kela. As the zebra continued out into the open moving West past the lions’ location Kela’s attention was fixed on them. With an entire carcass lying just metres from her, it seemed slightly gluttonous on her behalf to be eyeing up more… The issue was resolved rather swiftly however when the zebra spotted her as she crept to within 40m and took off like a shot. Their stampeding hooves drew the attention of Kwandi, but with a full stomach, she could barely be bothered to track their progress visually.

Eyes bigger than belly? Kela considers an encore...

The following morning and the pride and the carcass were completely shielded in the boundary. We could still hear the grinding of teeth on bone, but having dragged the carcass even deeper there was nothing we could see.

Resting up after an all-night feast

By mid-morning however, most of the pride had re-located to waterpan 3. With Leya initiating a series of moves, the group at the water pan gradually got smaller one-by-one until we were just left with the RS cubs, Zulu and Kela. When Rusha left the group the cubs studied her progress intently, but opted to stay with dad, and aunt Kela. But when Zulu moved off they were left with just Kela; a mostly unconscious Kela. But even with this lack of parental supervision the cubs had no energy to get into mischief with their ginormous stomachs clearly making it difficult for them to find any comfortable position to rest in.

RS1 tracks Rusha's progress next to Zulu

RS3, apparently having consumed a bowling ball

A little after midday however, all four heads popped up although RS3’s was certainly popping higher than the others. A herd of five puku were making their way to the pan and spotted the slumbering lions whilst still at a safe distance. The male in the herd let out a warning whistle which immediately woke Kela and the cubs. All four eyes tracked the herd’s movements across the area, but it was RS3 who was straining to peer over the shrubs and grass who really seemed keen to become acquainted with the puku. Unfortunately, Kela was in no mood to give any sort of lesson to her young niece on the finer points of sneaking up to a whistling herd of puku, but gave all the cubs a detailed example in flopping on your back and sleeping the rest of the day away.

RS3, watches the puku alongside Kela and her siblings

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