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July 25 2016

One day in early July, the Ngamo pride were seeing the morning in by resting in Amboseli; that is, all except for a very playful Ashanti.  As her pride mates bunched together to keep themselves warm, Ashanti busied herself by playing in trees and running around the area.  She even managed to coax her daughter AS4 into joining in the frivolity, which actually isn’t too much of a task considering AS4 is just as playful as her mum.  The pride remained together in Amboseli all day and by the afternoon it was AS5’s turn to be a little restless.  As AS4 made a nuisance of herself by chasing Nala from out of a nearby shrub, AS5 took a wander around the area investigating his surroundings with his nose.  His nose eventually led him to his mum who was napping, blissfully unaware of the impending intrusion.  Now, AS5 is a big lion to miss and so as he sniffed at her rear, Ashanti soon sensed that her personal space was being invaded.  After a moment or so she angrily turned on him to warn him to keep his distance but, to the surprise of the research team, AS5 fought back and, even more surprisingly, Ashanti in turn submitted to her son! 

Over the past couple of weeks the team have noticed that AS5 has been responsible for initiating the majority of the roaring bouts within Ngamo.  What is also interesting is that the two males of the pride are now sharing the task of marking their territory with very little between the amounts of time they both spend scent marking.  This increase in AS5’s territorial behaviour tells us that the young male is maturing perfectly, now taking responsibility for the protection of his territory. 

AS5 is now sharing the duty of protecting the pride's territory with Milo

On the 13th, a scavenge opportunity was provided for the pride, concealed beside waterhole one.  Meanwhile, the lions were resting in the Serengeti West area of the site unaware of the meal that awaited them.  By the afternoon the wind started to pick up and, although it was blowing in the opposite direction of the waterhole, Ashanti, Kwali, AT1, and AS5 all seemed to be picking up a scent, holding their noses high in the air and sniffing.  The four lions soon returned to rest, but a little while later Kwali stood up and headed towards the boundary in the direction of waterhole one.  She had only travelled a few metres before she paused and looked back at the pride in an effort to get them to join her.  Unfortunately her pride mates ignored her gesture and they continued doing what they were doing, some resting, whilst others enjoyed a grooming session from their companions.  Kwali remained standing and, as she continued on a few more paces, she looked back at the pride again, but still she could not manage to get them to follow her.  After her third attempt Kwali simply remained standing on the road, clearly not wanting to leave without them.  Suddenly Ashanti rose to her paws and she headed off along ‘Grasslands’ in the opposite direction to Kwali.  On finally seeing some movement, Kwali trotted to catch up with Ashanti and, as the two females continued up the road, the rest of the pride followed one by one. 

Ashanti resting with the pride females

This episode was a perfect demonstration of how dominance, or lack of, can influence the pride’s movement.  Low-ranking Kwali could not manage to get the pride to follow her, whilst Ashanti’s departure brought about an immediate movement from the whole pride.  Unfortunately, as Ashanti led the procession along Grasslands, they travelled further away from their hidden meal and with the daylight fading quickly the research team left them there to return again in the morning. 

Low-ranking Kwali couldn't lead the pride to the scavenge

The next day the team headed straight to waterhole one where they found all 11 lions feeding contentedly.  However there was still a good deal of meat left to eat, indicating that they had possibly only discovered it within the last couple of hours.  The team were of course pleased to see that the lions had found their meal, but they couldn’t help thinking; Ashanti may have more power over the pride, but they might have found their food sooner if they’d followed 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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