Thanks to a very generous donation by the Donald Family Trust, ALERT have been able to secure a second-hand Landover, in very good condition. The vehicle will be used by the Research team, which means introducing it to the Dambwa Pride.
The first introduction happened on the 27th of November. It was decided that it would be best to place a scavenge carcass in the site so the lions could naturally forage, but also be distracted when the new vehicle was brought into the site for the first time.
Using the vehicle to which the lions have been well habituated since their release four years ago now, the research team entered the site, expecting to find the pride enjoying the scavenge opportunity. However, the telemetry signal was getting stronger near one of the water pans in the Bwizu Area – not where the scavenge was placed of course. Sure enough, the whole pride was there at the water pan getting a drink after clearly making use of the meal based on stomach sizes. Then it started to rain. The research team radioed to the new vehicle to enter. As the two vehicles parked up next to each other, not far from the lions, the rain turned into a downpour. It was honestly hard to tell how the lions reacted because it was raining so hard, but they seemed to not be too phased by the new member of the research effort. It may not have been the scavenge that distracted them, but rather the storm! Before both vehicles could get stuck in the increasingly muddy release site, they slowly exited.
The following day, the research team brought the new vehicle into the site by itself to see the pride’s reaction solely to the new vehicle. The research team found the pride near Main Gate in the Kariba area. Zulu, Kela, LE3, and LE2 were about 40m away from the rest of the pride, in a separate group. Slowly driving up to the main group they all popped their heads up and looked very alert. The research team stopped instantly and jotted down notes on the reactions of individual lions; Loma, Leya, and RS2 were vigilant longer for example – and then waited for the group to settle. Fairly quickly, some went back to sleep, whilst others started to groom themselves, and each other. When the engine was turned on again, PING! the whole group popped their heads up again and became highly vigilant to the vehicle. After a few minutes Kela, LE2, and LE3 joined the main group for a better view, whilst RS3 stood up and moved in front of the group. Gradually they settled once more.
Zulu, who was famously nervous as a cub, stayed in his spot about 40 meters away. As the engine was turned on again to move a little closer to the now large adult male, the whole pride became vigilant once more. As the vehicle crept a little closer to Zulu he stood and faced the vehicle. After a moment, he decided to take refuge in the middle of the females and the sub-adults, taking a wide arc around the vehicle to get there. Satisfied with the outcome so far, the research team decided that was enough for the pride for now, and drove out of the release site.
Over the coming days and weeks the new research vehicle will be increasingly used, enabling the pride to become habituated to it such that they don’t even twitch when it arrives, as they do our other research vehicle.
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.
Support the African Lion Rehabilitation & Release into the Wild Programme
· To make a donation or to fundraise on our behalf click here.
· To meet the pride as a volunteer, intern or facilitated research student click here.