For the love of trees and birds
February 22 2017

Over the last couple of weeks, the rains have slowed, meaning that the research team has been able to get into the Dambwa Release Site and spend some quality time with the pride.  But the pride has had better ideas, frequently resting in thickets in the Sanga boundary and Chobe areas.  One thing you quickly learn while on research is that having patience often pays off.  On the 19th of February, telemetry signals indicated that the pride was hiding deep in a thicket, however, after patiently waiting for 10 minutes, the pride slowly wandered out before resting in the long grass around the research vehicle.  Prior to settling, some pride members, including Kela, approached a tree to sharpen their claws on the trunk.  LE3 also approached a tree, rubbing his head against branches before turning and spraying the tree.  Spraying is a form of scent marking used by adult males and females in defence of their territory, indicating that this sub-adult male is certainly growing up fast!

Zulu appearing out of the thicket

RS3 surveying her surroundings after appearing out of the thicket

Kela sharpening her claws on a tree

LE3 rubbing his head against tree branches prior to spraying

On the 20th of the month, the pride was found resting in the grassland of the Sibaka area.  The majority of the pride was visible, however, LE2 was thought to be hiding in the thick grass slightly away from the pride. Approximately 30 minutes into the sighting, four francolins suddenly burst out of the grass to the right of the pride; shrieking and fleeing from the area to the safety of trees in the distance.  Out of the grass, LE2 slowly appeared, looking determined and then frustrated in the direction of the fled birds.  She glanced at the pride and then the research vehicle, before disappearing back into the long grass.  Before the pride could go back to resting, two white-backed and three hooded vultures slowly circled directly above.  Loma, Leya and LE3 appeared to be most intrigued by the vultures, watching them carefully before the large birds flew further north into the site.  Deciding the vultures did not indicate the presence of any food, the pride returned to resting in the afternoon sun.

After the excitement of the francolins, LE2 disappears back into the long grass. This shows how easily lions can hide in the grass! 

Watching the vultures circle above

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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