Tuesday 5th November and the lions gave us a proper run-around. As we entered the site, we were picking up a very weak signal for Rusha, Kela and Leya. It quickly became clear that these signals were moving as they would suddenly get stronger before completely disappearing. Eventually we located five of the lions, very close to where we’d originally started off the search in North Kariba; Kela, Kwandi, Leya, Loma and Zulu, whilst Rusha and Temi remained elusive for the rest of the afternoon.
Kela, Loma, Kwandi, Zulu & Leya
The following morning, the five we’d sighted the previous afternoon were still in Kariba but had moved a couple of hundred metres, whilst Rusha and Temi were still in hiding. Despite an early morning start to take advantage of cooler temperatures, there was no action to speak of.
Rusha takes the chance to drink, while RS1 keeps her brother in a headlock
The following afternoon Rusha and the cubs were back out in the open by waterpan 3, whilst the KL/Zulu group remained rooted to the spot in Kariba and Temi continued to elude us; although her signal suggested she had moved closer to the centre of the site than in previous days. The cubs’ energy levels these days seem to know no-bounds and Rusha once more patiently allowed herself to become the object of endless bites, slaps and smacks. But the following morning the young family had teamed up with the L sisters in the south of the site. An additional member of the group that morning was a zebra carcass whom Leya was currently feasting from the remains of. All three lions and three cubs looked fit to bursting, but that didn’t stop RS1 giving her brother and sister a hard time, chasing them from pillar to post.
Leya and Loma
Rusha began to lead her cubs away from the carcass in the direction of the nearest water pan, when a herd of 6 zebra caught her attention; not all that far from where the Ls were still feasting. Opportunistic in nature Rusha couldn’t resist a stealthy stalk, and even Leya stopped feeding, and kept a beady eye fixed on proceedings. With RS1 and RS2 at Rusha’s heels, RS3 took to a small hill to watch mum’s advance. But with a full belly already and two cubs clambering around her feet Rusha’s effort was never really a serious attempt and the herd bolted as she made her presence known by calling to RS3 as they set off towards the waterpan once more.
RS3 monitors her mum's hunt
Meanwhile, the Ls gallantly attempted to finish off what little was left on the carcass but eventually collapsed in the shade 100m or so away from the remains of their latest binge. That didn’t mean they were happy for the vultures to get involved however; and the pair ran/waddled as fast as their bellies would allow when the first of the white-backed vultures began to descend.
The afternoon of the 11th and the pride were slightly scattered to the wind. Kela was by herself at Pan 2, but only a couple of hundred metres from Kwandi, Loma, Leya and Zulu. Close by around Grand Canyon we picked up a signal for Rusha but couldn’t actually locate her for the time being. Meanwhile, we discovered Temi stalking through the grass in Sahara as she stealthily approached a herd of six grazing zebra some 300m away. As lightning streaked across the sky, thunder bolts boomed and the wind gusted back and forth it set a suitably eerie setting as the lone figure continued to glide directly towards her targets. Unaware, the zebra kept grazing but as Temi approached the 100m mark they started moving off South East, even though they hadn’t appeared to spot her. We lost sight for several minutes of both parties until the zebra began moving even further South, at which point Temi re-emerged “jogging” South West, presumably in a wide flank around the zebra to try and get on the other side of them. It was a scene that was still playing out at the end of the afternoon when we went to check on her before leaving.
Temi: locked on the herd of zebra
Meanwhile, back at waterpan 2, Rusha and the cubs were now drinking but Kela and gang were nowhere to be seen and their signals were no longer in the area. While the cubs had a great time chasing and jumping all over one another, Rusha spent almost half an hour walking the immediate area alternatively sniffing the ground or calling. Even when the cubs turned their playful attentions on her she merely kept up the search, as her youngsters hung off various limbs or her haunches.
It would seem by this point Rusha was desperate for a bit of adult company...
RS2 and RS3 hinder rather than help Rusha's search
The KLZ group however had now relocated to Kariba and this is where we found them the next morning, with the addition of Rusha and cubs. It was clear they had all fed, but it took a couple of hours to actually locate the carcass which the cubs were baby-sitting in the southern treeline.
Leya calls to her sister and Zulu
The following morning (13th) Rusha had removed herself and her off-spring and was now in the Northern treeline, while Kela, Loma and Leya were about 400-500m East of where the group had been the previous day. A few distant calls set Leya off and she gave the rest of the Dambwa Forest a wake-up call. Not surprisingly shortly afterwards Zulu and Loma came marching out of the treeline from the direction of the previous day’s zebra kill. Despite it being barely after 6am, the morning was already heating up rapidly and after the usual excitement of two sub-groups reuniting it was time to find some shade and settle down for the rest of the day.