November 16 2016

As RS1 grows older, the research team has seen her become an integral part of the Dambwa pride.  RS1 has always been smaller than her two siblings, but she has never let that deter her from any challenge or adventure that came her way.  She has even come so far as to gain Zulu’s attention and respect, and when Zulu is interested in something, the whole pride follows.

On November 10th, the team entered the release site to find only half the pride at their favorite tree in Kariba area.  RS1, RS2, RS3, LE2, LE3 and Kwandi were nowhere to be seen, and the rest of the Dambwa pride seemed to be looking out in the distance for any sight of them.  Around fifteen minutes into the research session, the team spotted RS2’s mane peeking over a tall patch of grass, and heading towards the pride. Next, RS3, LE2, KW, and LE3 followed.  Bringing up the rear, a bountiful and boasting RS1 came through the grass as if she had just completed the most noble of quests.  After settling with the rest of the pride for only a few minutes, RS1’s ears perked up, neck heightened, and body swiveled in the direction from which the lions had arrived.  Wasting no time, she sprung up and eagerly trotted off towards the southern boundary of the release site.  Noticing the commotion, Kwandi and LE2 rose and followed her example.  Shockingly, Zulu (who hardly ever moves unless meat or shade is available) got up and followed, leisurely, in the path RS1 paved.  With Zulu out of sight, the rest of the pride seemed puzzled at his choice.  Heads were looking back and forth, trying to decide if they too should follow.  Before the rest of the pride had much time to choose their next move, RS1 appeared followed by Zulu, Kwandi, and LE2.  Zulu was trotting along next to RS1, seemingly pleased by whatever had occurred out of sight of the research team.  RS1 had definitely gained some respect from her father and apparently, her auntie Kwandi as well.  Unbeknownst to the pride, RS1 had a few more tricks up her sleeve that day.

After the entire pride settled together under their favorite shady tree, RS1 still seemed vigilant and alert; as if her instincts told her something else was around.  Suddenly RS1 began stalking something directly in front of the research team.  With no animals in sight, the pride and the team were confused by her actions.  Then RS1 pounced, and underneath her growing paws, a mouse lay victim to her impeccable senses.  The rest of the pride seemed interested in her snack and had expectant expressions draped across their faces, but RS1 gobbled the mouse up before any other pride member could steal it away.  Rusha, who had moved towards RS1 during the commotion, gave her a quick lick to the ear (as if in congratulations) and returned to her sleeping spot next to Loma.  RS3 however, sat next to RS1, hopeful for any leftovers there may have been.

With the cooler temperatures during the past few days in the Dambwa Forest, the pride has been more active, putting their faith in RS1’s decisions on November 14th and 15th, when she proved her leadership qualities once again.  Upon arrival to the mid-morning research session, the team witnessed the entire pride moving at once, with the exception of RS1 and Kela who were out of sight.  After the pride disappeared towards the southern boundary of the release site, the team concluded that RS1 and Kela must have been leading the movement.  After some time searching, RS1, Kela, Kwandi, and Zulu were found relaxing close to the Chisama boundary, away from the rest of the pride.  Zulu must have caught up to the three leading lionesses, choosing to stay with them as opposed to waiting for the rest of the lions.  Continuing her trend of guidance, on the 15th RS1 and Rusha also led the pride from Kariba area to Sibaka area!

RS1 takes pride of place alongside Zulu and auntie Kwandi 

The adult lions are beginning to trust the sub-adults more and, as RS1 proved, she is a very important member of the pride.  Having gained the respect of her father, RS1 continues to demonstrate how valuable her hunting and exploring skills are to her family.  She never backs down from a challenge and is thrilled to investigate the unknown, a trait that any lion pride is lucky to have.

About the Dambwa Lion Release Pride

The 6 adults (1 male and 5 females) of the ‘Dambwa Pride’ were captive born and released into the ‘Dambwa Lion Release Site’ in 2011, having been walked in the rehabilitation phase of the ex situ conservation project, the African Rehabilitation and Release into the Wild Programme.  The pride’s 6 offspring (3 males and 3 females) were born in the site and have had no human contact, display natural behaviours, and are intended for release into the wild in the final phase of the Programme.

Please consider supporting our work by making a donation, sponsoring a lion in Dambwa Pride, or fundraising on our behalf.  To work with our research team as a volunteer, intern or facilitated research student click here.


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