Matusadona Lion Project - Week 15
June 28 2015

Sightings have been very scarce during my time out the park much to the frustration of many guides here in Matusadona, however the prides appear to have finally come out of the rafters this last week.

Another two elephant kills have been located through daily downloaded GPS positions of the Jenje Boys coalition. They were joined by the Eastern pride and Tashinga Pride lionesses at alternate kill sites, providing much need sustenance for the growing four male cubs of the Eastern pride. Of the two kills one was an adult cow and I suspect it may have in fact been frail and/or sick allowing the cohort to take advantage as this age class of elephant has so far never been preyed upon presumably due to sheer size amongst other factors. 

Earlier in the week the lions had found themselves a third elephant that had died elsewhere. Two lions were reportedly heard feeding and so a camera trap was placed at the carcass to identify which animals were scavenging. Footage revealed a fantastic finding of eight hyena in wonderful condition - the largest group to have been recorded on a camera trap so far. Camera traps provide many uses to the study and the placing of them at large kills helps to identify study lions and also map hyena density. I suspected Kanjedza pride lionesses F101, “Ivory”, and F115, “Kanjedza” to have fed upon the bounty however with a clan of eight or more hyena it is likely they moved off the previous evening, out numbered by their competitors. Camera trap stills did however capture the moment pride male M108, “Toulouse” arrived at the carcass to chase the hyena way (top right corner of image). By this point the carcass had become quite putrid and the male continued on elsewhere. 

This totals a possible 11 elephant kills now since August 2014 by the Jenje Boys coalition. Detailed data is being compiled on kill scene habitat, amongst other variables, to try shed light on how such kills are taking place as witnessing such an event is highly unlikely. 

Later in the week Kanjedza lionesses Ivory and Kanjedza were located at the end of ‘Look Out’ point by the Kanjedza river with two cubs in tow. The small pride were feeding on a juvenile waterbuck, only the  fourth waterbuck kill recorded since the onset of the study. Waterbuck numbers do appear to be increasing on the floodplain with herds of +20 being sighted, alongside larger herds of zebra. The cubs were extremely skittish of the research vehicle but provided some brief moments for sexing. It appears the two little females of the original three have survived. I suspect the third cub, a male, has died since my first sighting in May. Lion cubs often suffer high mortality and with what appears to be only two lionesses protecting the juveniles, and only one suckling, the odds are sadly not in this litter’s favour. For now however the youngsters are in great condition and under the watchful eye of a very tentative mother, Kanjedza. 

During time away wonderful news was received from Idea Wild that a grant for $1200 has been received for fuel for the Matusadona Lion Project. This will see the vehicle through c. 3-4months worth of field work and has come at a pivotal time. Generous donations from others have also been received and are very much appreciated to help with ongoing research during this dry season. 

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