Sticks and stones…and bones!
August 4 2017

Over the past couple of weeks, the research team has been entertained by the sub-adult males of the Dambwa pride.  While the cool winter mornings have seen the pride be more active, the start of the windy month has resulted in some pride members getting a little over excited.  One morning, the pride was found to be resting in the Kariba section of the release site.  While the majority of the lions were resting together, the LE sub-adults were further away and broken into two groups.  LE3 was by himself and his sister LE2 and brother LE1 were resting under a bush in the near distance.  LE3 was visually exploring his surroundings when his eyes locked on a branch to his left.  He stretched out one of his large front paws, dragging the branch to him before he proceeded to chew it.  After a few minutes, LE3 then stood up with the branch in his mouth and started to prance towards his siblings.  Upon reaching his brother, he then dropped the branch on LE1’s head, before jumping out of the way of a counter blow and running to LE2’s side.  LE1 then took possession of the branch and proceeded to first chew it and then fall asleep with it between his front paws.

LE3 spots something that takes his fancy

Another morning, the research team were busy collecting data on the pride that seemed to be happily basking in the sunshine or resting under the shade of a tree.  RS2 suddenly raised his head and began chewing on a bone that had been resting between his front paws, unseen by the research team.  He held the bone between his dew claws and gnawed away at it.  When it no longer gave him any amusement, he decided to wander over to LE3 and flop himself down right in front of the lion’s nose.  LE3 fell right into RS2’s trap and began an allogrooming session that lasted several minutes.  RS2 reached his forelegs around LE3’s face, occasionally licking his head in return for keeping the grooming session going.  The bond between these sub-adult boys clearly remains strong!

RS2 with the bone

Let the grooming begin!

This was not the only morning during the month of July that RS2’s mindset was firmly on object play.  On the 31st, the pride was resting in the Sibaka area of the release site when RS3 stood and moved off into the long grass.  RS2 watched his sister intently and, when she slowed down to claw a tree, thought this was the perfect opportunity to initiate a game of stalk and chase.  After chasing RS3 towards the Sanga Boundary thicket, RS2 abandoned his pursuit once his eyes locked onto a boulder.  Pouncing like a kitten onto a ball of string, it was clear that the boulder was no match for RS2’s strength as he picked it up with his front paws and threw it into the air, comically for the research team and RS3 to observe.  RS3 then approached the boulder curiously and RS2 protected it by chasing her away then returning to it himself, tossing the boulder into the air again.  All calmed down when RS3 returned to her brother’s side, watching him push the boulder around on the ground before he decided to leave it alone to both rest under the shade of a tree.  Despite having reached adulthood, it is clear that RS2 has a cheeky and playful side, just like his mother Rusha. 

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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