Going green
January 24 2014

Sunday the 12th January was a quiet one for Temi and the RS family, who were on the borders of Sahara and Chisamu early in the morning. The most activity anyone could muster was when Temi led the group from the road, which bisects the two areas, a short distance to the cover of a thicket.

RS3 on the right, RS1 infront of RS2 on the left

Meanwhile, the rest of the pride was in Sibaka. Whilst we could hear their signals we couldn’t actually see them. What we could see nearby however was a herd of zebra and impala. As the animals steadily grazed across the area, we had a sneaky suspicion from the lions’ signals that the animals were heading straight for them. After five minutes of watching, we caught a glimpse of Zulu, about 140m from the game, stalking straight towards them. He soon disappeared once more into the grass and a minute later we spotted him briefly again. We missed the females’ advance entirely as Zulu was still too far off to launch an attack, but nonetheless there was a sudden explosion of activity. Still not able to see who was where or doing what, we saw zebra racing to the West, and several groups of impala fleeing either towards the southern boundary, North and East.

We spotted Kela first, who must have pursued the zebra making her way back towards the scene where it all started. Ears pricked and eyes scanning she was clearly listening for any signs that her pride mates had been more successful than she. Soon meeting up with Zulu, it was clear he hadn’t had any luck either, and Kwandi led the L sisters back from the East; also empty-handed.

Returning to the Temi/Rusha group we discovered another small herd of zebra pretty close to where we’d left them. Temi was standing in the middle of the road, looking to the South (whilst being watched by the zebra). We couldn’t see Rusha, but several minutes later she came plodding back down the road towards Temi and the pair returned to their earlier thicket, where the cubs were still resting. Impala warning calls could be heard from the direction from which Rusha had just returned and the zebra by now had tip-toed off to safety undetected. So it would seem that while we’d been watching Kela and co. chasing one set of zebra and impala, Rusha and Temi had been after their own impala lunch, but had been equally unsuccessful.

RS2, waiting while Rusha and Temi go hunting

The afternoon of the 14th found Kela, Rusha, Temi and Zulu with the cubs in North Kariba. It wasn’t long before we heard lions calling, not too far away, to the North West of the group. Minutes later Kwandi appeared and joined the group, greeting Temi on her way through. Soon Leya joined the group, and Zulu at the same time got up and left. Loma who had clearly been left behind had been calling intermittently for the last 10 minutes. While no one replied it would seem Zulu took some affirmative action and went to get her.

RS2 welcomes Loma

But Loma only has eyes for Zulu

Soon we could hear two sets of calling not too far from the group, and this time Leya and Rusha responded. As Leya roared back with all her might, she was soon drowned out as Zulu returned to the group bellowing as he rubbed up against a series of trees and bushes. When everything had died down and Loma had finally found the rest of the lions, with all 10 pride members together the group fell into a deep sleep.

RS1

The following week was, uncharacteristically for the time of year, very dry which allowed us to enjoy a high amount of unseasonal access to the site. But every silver lining has its cloud; with no rain to cool things down, the temperature has been unbearable and the lions’ behaviours and activity levels have reflected that. And despite the brief respite from the rains, the initial deluge has done the trick and the grass is making spotting the lions, never mind watching them, little more than a fool’s errand.

There has been the odd incident of note however. On the 16th we found Rusha’s cubs with Temi in Grand Canyon, meanwhile mum Rusha was off with the rest of the pride in Kariba sleeping in the tall grasses. While the cubs were perhaps slightly more alert than they would be with mum around, they did seem more than content under Temi’s guardianship.

On the afternoon of the 20th, all 10 members of the pride were deep in the bushes of Sahara. A peer through the branches confirmed that Leya and Loma were in there, but other than that we had to use the signals from their collars to confirm the rest were in there. The afternoon seemed like a lost cause until just before 4pm, when Kwandi stirred and came and sat in an opening in the bushes. Alternately scanning the area and resting her weary head against a tree, her movement had initiated the ripple effect of slowly waking the rest of the pride up.

Kwandi saves the afternoon

Rusha suddenly sat up and became semi-visible, grooming Leya before Kwandi rose and began heading north. Rusha followed her out of the thicket, along with Leya, Loma, Temi and Kela. After a couple of quick toilet breaks the group began moving off; with Rusha returning after 20m or so to call her cubs. Zulu by now had moved out of the bushes too and was sitting watching the group depart but elected not to follow. The pride’s first family watched the group depart across Sahara, before Rusha led the cubs off in a more easterly direction.

We briefly checked on the departed five females’ location and found they had resettled in the tall grasses of Northern Sahara, Loma was briefly visible as she drank from a natural waterpan from the rains before joining the others. Rusha and the cubs had now settled in an equally un-viewable spot in Eastern Sahara before being joined by the lumbering form of Zulu for the rest of the afternoon.

The following morning Temi was babysitting the RS cubs again in Sahara whilst the rest of the pride was passed out in Kariba. By mid-morning however, Temi had ditched her charges and had moved further East. At first we didn’t see her hunkered low in the grass, but picking out her ears between a couple of small shrubs we could see that she was watching a herd of impala about 30m from her in the same thicket the lions had been resting in the previous afternoon.

Waiting patiently for 20 minutes or so, Temi was ready when the herd started to move through to the other side of the thicket and were no longer able to see her. Running in a crouch across the open grass she almost made it to the thicket undetected, but with less than 10m to go she was spotted and the chase was on. We caught flashes of impala and lion as they raced through the clearing in the middle of the thicket. But it took some minutes to work out where she had ended up. With the herd now scattered to the East and North, Temi remained hidden in the thicket lining up a second attempt. Temi chose the latter group and barrelled off once more. It was obvious the vehicle was going to be a hindrance rumbling along behind her, so we left her to it for the morning.

Rusha... waits for the right moment

The afternoon of the 23rd this time found Rusha by herself in Puku Dambo; watching a herd of impala and zebra drinking from Pan 3. She sat perfectly still until after five minutes she moved about 10m closer for a better look. Her plan appeared to be the same as Temi’s the previous morning; wait until the herd starts to move off before coming out and crossing the open area. It looked as though it could take some time so we went to find the rest of the pride. On returning we found both Rusha and the game gone… A brief search found her now at Pan 2; huffing and puffing she’d clearly chased them and lost. Reconciling herself to defeat she slumped back, rolling into a bush.

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