Following Kwandi’s Lead
October 24 2016

As the Dambwa pride sub-adults grow older and continue to hone their hunting skills, Kwandi decided to give the youngsters some tips of the trade.

In the early morning of October 1st, our research team entered the release site to find the pride scattered across the Kariba area; focused on something in the hazy distance.  As the team scanned the horizon, they noticed a flock of guinea fowl over 300 meters away.  The unsuspecting birds inched closer and closer to the pride’s position as they fed.  All of a sudden, the flock took to the air.  The team, and the lions, were sure the flock had noticed the present danger.   Most of the adults and sub-adults relaxed into a more comfortable position; all except for Kwandi, RS1, and LE2.

The three lions remained engrossed in the possible chance for a quick meal.  RS1 and LE2 appeared to be taking notes from their auntie, as they shadowed her deliberate and sly movements.  Suddenly, the flock of guinea fowl shifted direction and landed nearly on top of the crouched trio.  Kwandi was the first to take off towards the birds.  RS1 and LE2 wasted no time and took off behind their aunt.  Unfortunately for the lions, as soon as the hunt began, it ended with nothing but a few panting lions.

Accepting their defeat, the three slowly trotted back to the rest of the pride.  With a few greets to Rusha and Leya, RS1 and LE2 settled next to their mothers.  Rusha pleasantly greeted her daughter, as the two took turns licking and grooming each other.  Kwandi, on the other hand, stood for a few minutes, hesitant to return to the pride.  Seemingly unsatisfied with the pride’s current choice of resting spots, she began walking towards Sibaka.  Without hesitation, RS1 followed, potentially thinking there were more guinea fowl to chase. Realising there was no prey in sight, RS1 slowed her pace, but still seemed cheerful to follow Kwandi’s lead. 

RS1 watches Kwandi as she starts to head away from the rest of the pride 

Kwandi initiating a pride movement

Zulu was next to follow and, once he had committed to the movement, the rest of the pride trailed one by one. LE3 and RS3 were last to commit to the change in scenery.  Reluctantly, they accepted the pride’s decision and made their way towards Sibaka.  Kwandi led the pride to the edge of the tall grass boundary before settling.  Showing his subtle delight with her decision to move, Zulu gave Kwandi a quick lick on her ear, before lying next to her and returning to his slumber.  LE1 even showed his affection by resting his head on top of Kwandi, who seemed delighted to be in the spotlight.

The research team was impressed to see Kwandi initiating a hunt and a movement.  Kwandi can sometimes be impatient with the sub-adults, but the team has definitely noticed a growing bond between her and LE1.  Our data shows an increase in positive interactions between the two lions.  LE1 often uses his Aunt Kwandi as a pillow and Kwandi, so far, has been happy to oblige.  The sub-adults seem to be fond of both their K aunties and the team is excited to see just how close these bonds will become in the future.

The RS sub-adults grooming next to Aunt Kwandi

LE2 engrossed in chewing on a stick

About the Dambwa Lion Release Pride

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 males 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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