Back on the 27th after a failed collaring attempt of lioness F115, “Kanjedza”, the previous evening I tracked her pride mate, lioness F101, “Ivory”, in the Kemurara 2 river area where she had met up with male M109, “Madoda”. With the 2 lionesses now separated it was unlikely we would locate Kanjedza over the next few coming days so I made my way West to follow up with the Eastern Pride and a suspected elephant kill of the Jenje Boys pride males.
A c. 7/8 year old elephant was discovered in the thick jesse bush of the Mukadzapela area, cleaned down to the bones. Loc stats from GPS collars suggested the males had been joined by Eastern Pride lioness F107, “Elizabeth” and examining spoor at the kill site it looked as though the 4 male cubs had also tagged along. I have yet to see any of the pride males in the vicinity of the cubs and up until this point the females appear to have been avoiding any such encounter.
The following day I finally obtained my family portrait visual. The Eastern Pride females, alongside cubs and 2 of the pride males, “Mukadza” and “Toulouse”, enjoyed the morning light, basking on the sandstone cliffs of the Bhizi river area. This was a wonderful sighting and provided more concrete data on the possible paternity of the pride males of these cubs. This sighting also allowed me to further inspect lioness F105’s, “Sanyati’s”, wound after her altercation with a hippo the previous week. The wound appeared clean and to be causing little to no discomfort despite being quite a deep laceration in her chest.
On the 4th a report was received of an injured elephant which some of you may have read about online. The poor young bull appeared to have lost its eyes beneath large wounds either side of the head and also a large open wound by the right elbow. With the help of ZPWMA scouts and Changa Safari Camp guides the elephant was located for further assessment. Sadly by this time Kanjedza Pride lionesses Ivory and Kanjedza had found the vulnerable animal and taken advantage. The elephant managed to get away and without the pride males presence to assist in bringing such a large animal down, the females soon lost interest and stopped pursuing. A decision was made by ZPWMA to euthanise the animal the following day through mercy and in hopes of examining wounds to determine the cause. Samples have been obtained from the now dead animal and will be sent off for analysis.
After sighting Kanjedza away from a possible den site Dr Norman Monks very kindly returned to Matusadona at a moments notice to assist with attempting to collar her. Telemetry signal and spoor suggested she and lioness Ivory were remaining in the Kemurara 3 river area and a call up station was attempted close by. By this point I was beginning to become concerned as to Kanjedza’s suspected cubs whereabouts. I had thought they would be c. 2 months old and therefore possibly still in a den yet their mother had been mobile for sometime. Our attempts to lure the lionesses to a bait failed that evening so we tried our luck again the following night. After much suspense the females finally made an appearance but with larger than life stomachs. It was more then apparent they had already fed therefore our offering of a free mouthful went unnoticed and we abandoned any attempt to dart.
This morning (10th) we returned to where bait had been laid and following signal tracked the lionesses back up the river to where the suspected kill may have been. Spoor littered the riverbed and an all too familiar stench of rotten meat lingered. As telemetry signal increased we tip-toed over the riverbank when suddenly on a small mopane branch leaning over the river, a golden ball bobbed precariously. A cub. And then another 2. Batting at one another, 3 very well fed cubs played completely oblivious to my gawping in the bushes. 2 females and 1 male were identified at c. 3-4 months old. Without risking encountering mother Kanjedza yet again in the thick scrub, we left the stunning scene and headed back to camp happy in knowing the population has now grown by another 3 chubby youngsters - quite the Mother’s Day finding!