It Never Rains, But It Paws
March 21 2016

As the month of February drew to an end, the research team was beginning to give up hope of any more ‘big rains’ arriving to quench the thirsty ground.  However, by the afternoon of the 28th their hopes were finally met as the blackened clouds came rolling in.  The Ngamo release site was cast into a premature twilight and a moment or so later a boom reverberated overhead, announcing the start of the promising storm.  In the distance, a streak of hot silver split the sky and the downpour began. 

During that morning the pride had been resting together in the Amboseli area of the site, but the storm sparked a movement from the lions and the team now had the task of seeking them out in the heavy rain.  Eventually they were located, all taking cover from the deluge among the shrubs in the Kruger area.  The ‘hairier’ members of the pride looked a little less impressed with the rain and, as the females moved slowly from tree to tree, AS5 remained undercover, whilst Milo’s majestic mane became flatter and flatter. 

The storm on the 28th marked the start of four days of rain, and the pride was more active than usual, patrolling their territory and on the prowl for impala.  The soft ground made access to some areas difficult for the research vehicle, which made the research team feel a little less productive than usual. 

By the 3rd of March, the rain had ceased and the ground was beginning to dry out a little, save for puddles that had collected along the roads.  The grey clouds had moved on and the pride relaxed in ‘Amboseli’ as the sun shone once again.  The morning temperature was just right for a spot of play, and playmates AS4 and AS5 began slapping, pawing and leaping on each other whilst their pride mates observed. 

By that afternoon, the pride had shifted location and were to be found in ‘Camp’ enjoying the plentiful shade that the area offers; the perfect time for AS5 to snuggle up to Dad. 

The rain returned mid-March, and again the release site was left with puddles and mushy roads.  The team entered the release site on the 13th to find the pride travelling along the boundary.  As usual, Milo was at the back of the procession so the research vehicle joined the parade too, following slowly behind the pride male.  After a little while, the team noticed Milo was taking rather an odd course.  Although the road ahead was relatively straight, Milo appeared to be zigzagging and hesitating every now and then.  What was it that was holding him back?  A few metres on and the research team spotted it; Milo was avoiding the puddles and adjusting his path so as not to get his paws wet!  The research team were highly amused at his behaviour.  It turns out it’s not just his mane that Milo prefers to keep dry. 

About the Ngamo Lion Release Site

 The 6 adults (1 male and 5 females) of the ‘Ngamo Pride’ were captive born and released into the ‘Ngamo Lion Release Site’ in 2010, 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 5 offspring (1 male and 4 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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