The Day of the Jackal
July 19 2017

By the beginning of the month winter was well under way and the mornings were now bitterly cold.  As the research team arrived to the site early on the 1st of July, a thick mist fell over the Ngamo release site.  It was an incredible sight as silver-lined clouds from the rising sun were cast across the sky, however it was lions and not clouds the team were there to see and visibility was unfortunately extremely poor.  With no sign of the mist lifting any time soon, the team was forced to abandon that morning’s session and planned to return a little later in the day.

When the team did return, they met up with the pride all resting together in ‘Amboseli’.  In stark contrast to the morning, the afternoon had been very warm and the pride spent the whole session snoozing beside their chosen companions.  As the day slowly came to an end, the lions began to socialise; Phyre groomed AT1, KE3 groomed mum Kenge, and in what can best be described as a grooming train, Nala licked KE4, while KE4 licked Ashanti, all sat in a row. 

On the grooming train: Nala, KE4 and Ashanti

Quite unexpectedly, the high-pitched howl of a black backed jackal was heard nearby.  This wasn’t a call the team heard often and they watched eagerly to see which of the lions, if any, would show a response.  As it turned out, the pride showed no interest in the call, not a single head turned to look in the direction and they simply continued resting and grooming.  The research team however were keen to spot the source and they soon caught sight of two black backed jackals foraging around the area outside the release site.  Once the females had concluded their bonding session, the team retired their pens for the day and they headed out of the release site anticipating another cold start the following day. 

One of the black backed jackals 

On the 5th, the pride were again around the ‘Amboseli’ area.  The team hadn’t been with the lions for very long before things got a little unsettled.  Ashanti and AS4 had attempted to bully KE3, but she defended herself well and kept the mother and daughter duo at bay.  Obviously not being able to dominate KE3, AS4 turned her attention to KE4, but again AS4 was stopped in her tracks as Nala provided back up for her ‘pal’ and the pair stood their ground together against boisterous AS4.  To an onlooker, these bouts may look a little unfair or unnecessary, but they are in fact quite natural and serve as a way of developing one’s place in the hierarchy of a social group. 

With the squabbling finished, the lions turned their energy to play.  Ashanti and Phyre leapt on and off an anthill, meanwhile Nala set her sights a little higher and she climbed a tree.  She observed her playmates for a moment or so before she gracefully jumped down to join the pride in their procession towards ‘Masai Mara’. 

KE4 (left) and Nala (right)

Nala seeks higher ground


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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