Social time and the mysterious egg
July 20 2017

Over the past few weeks, the research team has noticed that pride behaviour has fallen into a familiar trend. Early morning research has usually resulted in locating the pride on the move, as they survey and visit various areas within the release site.  This can make finding them a challenge.  However, as the lions often utilise the roads for quick and easy movements, they are usually swiftly located.  Upon finding the pride, or a few straggling members; usually Zulu and the LE sub-adult males, the research team then follows the lions at a distance to their chosen resting place for the day.  Once they have flopped down in the sun or shade, time is then dedicated to self-grooming or, like Rusha and Loma, towards re-affirming social bonds with each other. Allogrooming, or social grooming, is a behaviour that is most likely to be observed to occur between adult females, or lionesses and their offspring.  Females of the pride can spend mere seconds or many minutes conducting this interaction type.  Often when they have finished, the females will either focus upon grooming themselves, or roll over and rest.  Some lions choose to rest in different positions, with Loma often showing off her ‘lion yoga’ skills!

Social grooming between Rusha and Loma

Lion yoga with Loma

Early one morning this month, the pride routine was changed when the research team found the lions dispersed into a few different groups.  Upon entering the release site, the sub-adults were seen in the Sahara section of the release site, running in the distance.  The research team was unsure whether the youngsters were hunting or playing with each other.  So not to disturb them if they were hunting, they slowly proceeded until they came across RS1 running down the road.  Undistracted by the presence of the research vehicle, RS1 continued on her relentless path towards the Kariba section of the release site. Eventually, she led the research team to the location of some of the pride adults.  Leya and Kela were found resting peacefully and, at first, the research team thought they were by themselves.  Upon turning the engine off, the team heard some crunching and rustling of long grass to their left.  Clearly a lion had caught themselves a nice snack!  Eventually, Zulu appeared out of the long grass, licking his lips.  As he slunk away, RS1 slowly crept closer to Zulu’s hiding place, keen to see if anything was left.  At this point, Rusha and Kwandi arrived and joined RS1 in her quest for any remaining morsels.  The rustling grass caught the attention of Zulu, who did not seem too happy about the lionesses searching the area for food, resulting in him stalking and rushing at them.  Rusha was the first lionesses he came across.  She quickly spun and stopped Zulu dead in his tracks.  Clearly, she is one pride member he is not keen to get into a fight with!  After some more sniffing and searching, all of the lions abandoned their quest and went to rest.  Before leaving the pride, the research team searched the long grass from the vehicle for any signs to what Zulu was eating.  The only evidence found was a small part of an egg shell.  Clearly a bird had made the unfortunate decision to lay their eggs close to one of the pride’s favourite resting spots!  

Zulu stalking the lionesses looking for his food source

Zulu confronted by Rusha during the egg search

About the Dambwa Lion Release Site

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 male 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.

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