It’s been a while since we last reported on the goings on of the Ngamo pride, and there have been quite a few changes in the release site. The rainy season took a heavy toll on some of the roads that now make for a bumpy ride and some less frequented areas are quite overgrown hence a little difficult to navigate through. However, the Ngamo release site is still a place of splendour as the varied bird choruses welcome each new day and countless spider webs glisten in the morning dew.
But it’s not just the release site that has seen a bit of change. A certain young male in the pride has been going through some transformation too! Over the past few months AS5’s mane has developed significantly, his short and thick blonde mane is a thing of the past and his whole chest area is now covered in black hair; causing the research team to sometimes do a double take to avoid mistaking him for dad, Milo. The development of AS5’s mane suggests that, as a second male in the pride, he is no longer being suppressed by his father and is slowly transitioning to a position of dominance. We can see this in his behaviour too. The two males are almost always found beside each other these days, however the prince of Ngamo has started to demonstrate a little more responsibility in terms of his protectiveness over the pride and defence of their territory. He is more vigilant to external factors, displays a notable level of territorial scent marking and is now initiating roaring more than previously. Meanwhile Milo is tending to rest nearby, letting his son get on with developing his pride male duties.
Father and son, Milo and AS5
AS5, NOT Milo!
On the morning of 20th April, the pride were resting in the Amboseli area of the site when the research team decided to spice things up a little. With zebra, wildebeest, impala and the occasional duiker being the only other species to have populated the release site, the team thought it might be interesting to let the pride come across elephants, well, the scent of them that is!
Shortly before midday, the team set about their plan to sneakily drop elephant dung saturated in elephant urine in an area of Ngamo. It of course had to be placed far away from the prying eyes of the pride but also in a location the team anticipated they would soon pass through, so that it would be discovered before drying out.
When the team arrived to the pride in the afternoon, the wind had surely carried the scent of the elephants towards the lions and they were no longer in Amboseli but in the Masai Mara area, where the scent had been laid. Unfortunately for the females, Milo and AS5 dominated it for the remainder of the afternoon and they merely had to observe the duo engrossing themselves in the scent. However the next day the novelty seemed to have worn off for the males, which allowed the females to access it freely, albeit it wasn’t as ‘fresh’ as the day before. Still, this didn’t seem to bother Nala, Kenge or KE3, who’s mucky faces were a clear giveaway that they’d been rolling around in the dung. The females visited the scent back and forth for most of the morning and, in between, bouts of play broke out. Ashanti had spotted AS4 also making the most of the elephant dung and she slowly crept up behind her. She stood beside her for a moment or two while AS4 avoided making eye contact with her, but as soon as AS4 turned her head away Ashanti leapt into the air in play, forcing AS4 to roll backwards and cast her paw to the air to prevent mum from landing on her. Kenge, Nala and the research team looked on as the mother and daughter played, and then the research team packed up for the morning and left the pride playing with ‘elephants'.
Ashanti and AS4 at play
Nala and KE3
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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