Hidden in plain sight
January 29 2016

The morning of the 23rd of January was spent meandering through the ever-growing vegetation of the Dambwa release site in search of lions.  With the grass now almost reaching the top of the vehicle, there is a lot of interference with the telemetry set, and the research team struggled to get a proper signal. Fortunately, our eyes can still be counted on when the technology isn’t cooperating!  

Zulu was spotted alone in the Chisamu area, and seemed a bit lost.  Rejoicing to have found a lion, the research team closer to see that he was calling for his fellow pride members, who were nowhere to be seen.  He sat for a while, looking longingly into the distance, and occasionally calling out.

After a while the research team decided it was time to move off and attempt to search for the other pride members.  However, just as they were about to leave, one of the RS sub-adults emerged out of a thicket about 100 meters beyond Zulu.  Grabbing the binoculars, the researchers could just about make out what could well be the rest of the pride in that same thicket.  Zulu appeared to perk up when RS1 started to come into her father’s line of vision.  Then Loma emerged and looked in Zulu’s direction as if she was wondering why he was so far away.  He quickly stood up and power-walked over to them, like he was relieved that he wasn’t abandoned.

He greeted his daughter and Loma while the other sub-adults appeared, running up to him and greeting their long lost father - who was probably ‘missing’ for only 15 minutes!  It must have been too much love for Zulu because he chased the youngsters off.  Then, as if to announce his return, he started to roar.  In the close proximity, the deep bellow and power of the sound could be felt in the research teams’ chests.  Everyone in the vehicle got chills as the pride male, with a few of the adult females chiming in, created an impressive chorus.  

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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