Matusadona Lion Project Principle Researcher Rae Kokes updates us on the latest in the lives of Matusadona's lion population:
Heading back briefly to earlier this month as a catch up. On the 3rd I was very pleased to locate the Kanjedza Pride sub adult male M102, ‘Madiba’, looking larger than ever and in wonderful condition. He was accompanied by Kanjedza Pride lioness F115, ‘Kanjedza’, who appeared to be quite heavily pregnant. Based on dates it is again likely this litter could be the offspring of the previous pride male ’Shepherd’. The day was spent peering out from the Zambezi Coco bushes for impala before the twosome were joined by F101, ‘Ivory’. The three lions revelled in each others company and headed off into the night together. ‘Ivory’ is still showing signs of being suckled and I am somewhat confident her litter of two are not far away.
On the 9th, after spending time with the Eastern Pride, I was finally graced with my first lion and buffalo interaction. Lionesses F107, ‘Elizabeth’, F109, ‘Matusadona’, and F105, ‘Sanyati’, were being escorted on Muuyu Island by two of the Jenje Boys and the group of five were tantalisingly close to a buffalo herd of c. 90 animals. By mid-afternoon male M109, ‘Madoda’, made off into the Jesse bush towards the rumbling buffalo herd. Suddenly the rest of the lions stood to attention and the lionesses began to trot after the male. Chaos could be heard from the Jesse and I began to circle the impenetrable bush. It appeared the herd had been split into two and the growls of lions and ungulates resonated out onto the water from deep within. Sure enough the unmistakable groan of distress was heard from a nearby baobab and there, quite conveniently out in the open, the five lions were subduing an adult cow. ‘Madoda’ was latched onto the throat, his chest heaving as he stood over the dying buffalo and I suspect it was he who initiated this successful hunt.
For 72 hours after the group, or perhaps now ‘pride’, gorged themselves on their bounty. They were eventually joined by the third Jenje Boy male M108, ’Toulouse’, and picked the bones clean. Through this feeding I observed numerous interesting social interactions. Following the loss of pride members F106, ‘Gogo’, and F114, ’Ngoda’, the social stability of the Eastern Pride is most likely to be in some turmoil. However I suspect there could in fact be promising signs of cohesion with the remaining four lionesses and the males. ‘Gogo’ was an older female and often observed being aggressive and hostile towards the younger males which consequently meant her younger pride mates kept their distance from the coalition. In her absence the younger females may in fact now begin to spend more time with the Jenje Boys and this kill was the perfect opportunity for social bonding.
The five have remained together loosely in the Mukadzapela area ever since indicating more pride cohesion. Amongst the Jenje Boys themselves it would appear the smallest of the trio M110, ‘Mukadza’ is showing the most dominance in regards to mating rights by covering the females and aggressively keeping his male counterparts at bay. This has certainly not phased ‘Madoda’ and ‘Toulouse’ however who have enjoyed plenty of male bonding time together whilst rolling around in hippo dung...