Matusadona Lion Project: Week Two
March 11 2015

Despite the thick greenery everywhere, there have been some spectacular sightings this week and I have had the opportunity to gather an enormous amount of very valuable data.

On March 1st, I picked up the signal for the collared lioness F101 (Ivory), of the Kanjedza Pride, in the Changachirere area. I battled my way through the thousands of Golden Orb spiders now decorating every branch and leaf of the area, and caught a brief glimpse of Ivory, accompanied by F115 (Kanjedza). Although Kanjedza who is believed to be pregnant, is notably larger, Ivory was appearing rather slim and in need of a hearty meal.

The duo remained in the area until the following day, presumably in pursuit of game which has flourished with the onset of the rains. After wandering along the lakeshore and through the mopane scrub, the females led me back into the spider's web and then through to the road where they firmly sat themselves down; this prevented my leaving, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Kanjedza looked on and kept a watchful eye on a nearby elephant bull as her hungry pride mate slept soundly.

By the morning of March 3rd, the lionesses had relocated to the Waterbuck Island area and lounged along the tree-line of the lakeshore with their stomachs noticeably more full than they had been when I saw them two days earlier. That afternoon, a large impala herd meandered their way past the lions hidden in the shade and grazed contently by the water’s edge. A lone, rather skittish waterbuck made its way past the girls and joined the herd; catching Ivory’s attention.

Despite her extended belly, Ivory watched, poised with intent. The herd slowly moved to the other side of a small rise and Ivory took advantage of this to initiate a hunt. She flanked out into the open and stalked low to the ground over the brow of the hill out of sight. As I recorded the on-goings from the opposite bank, I could see a sweeping curtain of torrential rain heading towards the hunting scene. As the downpour hit, the herd huddled closely together and Ivory crept slowly forward. Kanjedza intercepted and launched an ambush from the tree-line, splitting the herd into two. A group of impala leapt straight into Ivory’s grasp, but by some failing, she missed. The remaining impala and tag along waterbuck high-tailed it out of the area and around the island, leaving a saddened Ivory looking on. For a group of guests fishing in the bay from Changa Safari Camp, the view of the action was spectacular!

After the lionesses had left the area by March 5th, I found the remains of a waterbuck kill that had kept the twosome in the area and explained the lone waterbuck’s nervous disposition.

I then headed West towards Tashinga in pursuit of the "Jenje Boys”. Information downloaded daily from their fitted satellite GPS collars indicated a kill had possibly been made and, with the help of Professional Guide Steve Chinhoyi from Rhino Safari Camp, I headed into the thick Terminalia woodland. Vultures soared high above us and scrambled from the canopy as we caught scent of a carcass. Given the amount of vultures in the area, a wonderful sign of biodiversity, I presumed they boys had once again caught themselves a favoured meal…Another elephant.

Evidence of a struggle could be seen from scratches on the sub-adult elephant’s back, broken vegetation and exaggerated spoor. This is the 8th elephant kill recorded in 7 months, providing a combined edible biomass of c. 2700kgs based on estimated prey age classes. With the expectation of more cubs to be born in the next coming weeks, sired by these males, this is a wonderful sign that perhaps the pride males will provide improved food availability compared to last year where it is presumed that several juveniles died from starvation.

I have also been on the lookout for the young Kanjedza male M102 (Madiba). He was last reported around Spurwing Island Lodge mid-February, however, I have had no reports nor found any sign of him since. Camera traps have been deployed in areas he has frequented this rainy season and my hopes are that he has not left the park before we can fit him with a satellite GPS collar.

As some of you may know, I have been fundraising for this collar and another for male M109 (Madoda). We’ve in fact surpassed our target of $3800 and reached a staggering $4300 in 30 days. To all those who have shared this campaign and/or donated, THANK YOU. I look forward to updating you on the collaring exercise and the mountain of data they will provide.

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