It’s June, and true to form the mornings are once again cold and misty setting an eerie scene in the Ngamo release site before the sun rises and the mist slowly evaporates. The mornings can sometimes be a little predictable, there may be a slow leisurely procession around their territory before deciding on the right spot to rest; then again, AS5 may sometimes have more than just resting on his mind.
It’s to be expected that Ngamo’s young male is now exploring his maturity and one way of doing this is ‘testing’ which of his fellow pride members he can dominate. It’s usually KE3 and KE4 that feel the force of his chasing and intimidating behaviour, but what is becoming more apparent is that AS5 can rarely get involved in a bit of tormenting, without his ‘tomboy’ sister AS4 and mum Ashanti getting involved too!
KE3 (right) and KE4 (left)
The commotion usually disrupts the rest of the pride as the ‘A-team’ hot-tail it after KE3 or KE4, but it's not long before one of the lions defuses the tension by starting to roar and soon the whole pride is joined in a bellowing morning chorus before gradually returning to rest.
The support that Ashanti affords her offspring is nothing new, her behaviour over the years tells us that the bond she has with AS4 and AS5 is especially strong, and whilst she demonstrates great parenting, we’re pretty sure KE3 and KE4 would prefer it if Ashanti just let AS4 and AS5 fight their own battles.
On the 8th June, the research team arranged to set to up a territorial playback for the pride. It had been a while since the alarm call of zebra was last heard in the release site and the team thought this would make for some interesting data. The playback was to coincide with the placement of a little enrichment in the form of chunks of frozen blood, which it was hoped the pride would discover whilst on their investigation of zebra. The team met up with the pride all resting together in the Etosha area of the site and once they were ready to go the zebra call was played. AT1 was the first to react and she stood up in response to the alarm calls. She spent a moment or two assessing the sounds and the surrounding area and then she began to move off. The rest of the pride followed her, with even AS5 and Milo travelling at a quicker pace than usual.
AT1 reacts to the alarm calls
The pride were now trotting towards ‘Cross Route’, excitedly looking for zebra and so the call was played again from around Waterhole 1, to give the impression of the herd gradually moving through the site. It wasn’t long before the pride came into view once more, still hurried in their search for the source of the calls. The research team slowly followed them as they made their way down ‘Route 66’ and when they were about half way down the road the team saw that Nala, Milo and AS5 had discovered the blood. And as for the rest of the females? They were standing scattered through ‘Amboseli’ still looking for zebra!
Eventually AT1 and the females trickled back to Nala, Milo and AS5 and they licked at the defrosting blood, even though the males were doing their best to dominate the novel find.
AT1 (left), Nala (right) and Phyre (in the background)
The playback had been a great success; the pride had demonstrated a strong response to prey species, they had successfully sought out the location of the calls and, for the majority of the females, their motivation to find live prey was stronger than that of taking the opportunity to scavenge. Ah yes, the research team love it when a plan comes together!
About the Ngamo Lion Release Site
The 6 adults (1 male and 5 females) of the ‘Ngamo Pride’ were captive born and released into the ‘Ngamo Lion Release Site’ in 2010, 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 5 offspring (1 male and 4 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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