Follow the Leader
September 28 2017

On the afternoon of September 15th, the research team entered the Dambwa release site with temperatures reaching over 30 degrees Celsius.  As the sun scorched down, the team knew the pride would be hiding under the remnants of any shady thickets or trees in a lion puddle, trying to make use of each centimetre of shade.  They began their search for the pride starting at their favourite shady locations in the Kariba and Sibaka areas of the site.  Finding no lions resting in these areas, the team moved on to the water pans.  At water pan three, Kela was drinking, but none of the other pride members were with her.  The research team remained with Kela while she meandered from the water pan to some shady trees and then back again.  After another drink, she started to contact call and waited for a response from the pride.  Her communication went unanswered.  Kela tried contact calling once more, again with no response, before deciding to move off into the long grass towards the Kariba boundary.

Kela contact calling the rest of the pride

The research team continued to drive through the site and eventually came across ten members of the pride resting under a shady thicket next to the road dividing the Sahara and Chisama areas.  Zulu and RS1 were sleeping next to each other, with the rest of the lions snuggled together in a group, weaving their bodies between the thin tree trunks.  After a few positional changes to get comfortable, and with a breeze starting to blow over the site, the pride looked settled when, all of a sudden, Rusha stood up and moved towards Zulu and RS1.  She greeted her daughter and then moved onto Zulu, nuzzling her head towards his in a powerful greeting.  Then Rusha moved a metre away from Zulu, flicked her tail high and proud, and started to purposefully walk towards the nearby grassland.  Zulu immediately rose to his feet and followed quickly behind. RS2, RS1, Loma, Kwandi, Leya, LE1, LE2, and then LE3 woke from their slumber and, one-by-one, began to march in an extended line through the long spear grass.  The remaining members of the pride were not going to ignore a movement lead by Rusha, so promptly joined the procession.  As the lions disappeared into the horizon of golden grass, the research team decided to leave the site and let the pride be for the rest of the day.

RS2 resting among the trees

Rusha's ready for the off

RS1 and RS2 on the move

LE2 and LE3 quickly follow too

About the Dambwa Lion Release Site

The 6 adults (1 male and 5 females) of the ‘Dambwa Pride’ were captive born and released into the ‘Dambwa Lion Release Site’ in 2011, 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 6 offspring (3 male and 3 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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