Kela and Rusha lead the way
October 9 2014

It’s hardly a newsflash to announce that with the arrival of the hot, dry months life is slowing down considerably in Dambwa. But, that is the news. Despite this, there have been one or two moments in action in Dambwa.

LE3, LE1 and LE2 - covered in last night's dinner

We managed to get in the site a little earlier than usual in an attempt to get a decent session with the pride before the heat arrived on the 4th. The pride had been provided with a scavenge opportunity the previous day and were now at water pan 3 after a night of stuffing themselves. After some lazy play from the cubs and a little social from the both adults and youngsters, Leya initiated a move across Puku Dambo. Kwandi, Loma and Zulu duly followed, whilst everyone else (except Kela who slept through everything) kept an eye on their route from the waterpan. Finding herself the primary carer of two litters of cubs, Rusha followed in their tracks about five minutes later. Instantly, she was followed by Leya’s litter and then her own. As the second wave of lions crossed the area, we gave them a few minutes head start before following suit; leaving a snoring Kela alone at pan 3. Unfortunately the vegetation at their new spot was a little too thick to get any more meaningful data, and the temperature was rapidly escalating, so in all likelihood there wouldn’t be much more to collect anyway. A groggy Kela stumbled over and joined them just before we made our exit and with the lions having found their solace from the sun for the day, we went to find ours.

Rusha, Kwandi, Kela & Leya

On the 6th we picked up Temi’s signal from one of her favourite ambush spots in the south-east of the site. We couldn’t get a visual of her, but we know of her success in this area on account of the littering of impala legs and other bits and pieces we often find dotted around the edges of the bushes. Setting off to look for the others, we found them heading East though Puku Dambo. A brief rest in the shade, and Kela galvanized the group back into action shortly after and led them towards Bwizu. By the time we caught up with them, we saw Rusha was now in control of the move and a sort of stop-start pattern had emerged. Clearly they were looking for something.

Rusha and Loma

We lost them in the thick bush for several minutes before finding them close to Pan 2 now accompanied by the RS cubs – the most likely source of Rusha’s searching. Kela seemed keen to get going once more, and Leya soon joined her and the pair led everyone further East and into Sahara. We soon lost Leya, who stopped at the previous week’s scavenge site to pick over some old bones. From being the laziest of the lazy last week to being a cat with a mission, Kela continued to propel the rest of the group further. Quite suddenly, she diverted right into the tall grass.

Kela leads Rusha and Loma

We couldn’t see anything further ahead or to the right, but she clearly had. With Kela out of sight, we watched her signal gradually getting weaker and weaker as Rusha now took over the helm. But several minutes later she too veered right off of the road; this time she was crossing an open area and her posture was clearly that of a large bulky cat who was trying desperately not to be seen. Scanning the area as Rusha’s lumbering form continued her path in Kela’s direction, we finally spotted what the lions were already well on top of.

Rusha doing her best to tip-toe

The herd were approximately 200-250m from our position. Kela and Rusha (while both had now vanished into tall grass) were clearly taking a very wide flank to the right. Loma soon began stalking directly across the burnt area towards a bank of grass the fire had missed and concealed herself. Kwandi did her best to corral Rusha’s cubs and led them to within around 50 or so metres of the herd. Zulu as usual didn’t seem to have the first clue what was going on, and plodded around the open area in full view. How on earth the impala didn’t see him is anyone’s guess but he somehow got away with it. With Loma, Kwandi and the RS cubs lined up 50m to the West of the herd, and Rusha’s signal suddenly getting closer we could only assume Rusha was lining up to chase them into the ambush.

Loma makes a direct approach

We didn’t dare move the vehicle any closer for fear of tipping the balance of the hunt in either’s favour and so had to peer into the far distance to try and keep up with each side’s movements. Between keeping an eye on the lions hiding in the grass bank and keeping an eye on the absentee’s signals we very nearly missed it when Rusha did make her move. It was hard to tell if the impala spooked first and then Rusha raced after them, or if she perhaps showed herself a second or two too early and the impala got the jump on her; either way, lion and impalas raced out of sight. Finally able to move from our spot we drove up the northern boundary road to where the rest of the pride was reconvening after their failed ambush. As they re-grouped Rusha joined them too. The herd had sprinted off in the direction from which we were now picking up Kela and Temi’s signals. With Loma leading the second attempt, the pride moved off into much thicker vegetation in persuit.

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