There’s been some fantastic action on the valley floor this week with a sighting every day of the resident lions.
On the 6th I joined Jenje Boys “Toulouse”, M108, and “Mukadza”, M110, taking midday heat relief in the shade of a Sausage Tree along the banks of the sandy Kemurara 3 riverbed. The two males moved straight into the area having finally digested their buffalo kill back on the lakeshore of the Kings Camp area 48 hrs earlier. Tracks sighted that morning indicated they had in fact met with a single lioness overnight on their arrival, but she was nowhere to be seen.
As the heat began to subside a throaty roar was heard from the nearby Sanyati West Bay and the boys stood to attention and headed towards the sound. Anticipating their route through the scrub I headed into the Bay and found Kanjedza lioness F115, “Kanjedza” moving to the water. I last sighted this lioness on the 3rd September showing signs of pregnancy and these signs had increased.
After having a brief drink, perhaps after enjoying a feed elsewhere, “Kanjedza” turned to meet an approaching “Toulouse”. The male, obviously still not quite sure of who he had happened upon, adopted a defensive, rigid stance and slowed his pace as the lioness proceeded into a familiar trot towards him. This familiarity however rapidly turned into hostility as “Kanjedza” lashed out at the stunned male. As quickly as her claws had been retracted the dust settled and the two sat together peacefully with “Mukadza” watching from the nearby tree line.
Such aggression from a lioness is quite common behaviour, especially towards younger, less familiar males. The Jenje Boys have only been socialising with the Kanjedza Pride for approximately 6 months or so and not all lionesses are likely to be fully accepting of and/or comfortable with their dominating presence. As for aggression between the males over the females themselves this has been fairly subdued and often circumvented by soft vocalisations and head rubbing between coalition members around lionesses - very tactful.
On the 10th I headed west to the Mucheni area to find Eastern Pride lionesses F105, “Sanyati”, F107, “Elizabeth”, and F109, “Matusadona”. The trio are still missing their 4th pride member F108, “Jenje”, who has not been sighted since early July. I hope this is an indication of cubs hidden somewhere. The three lionesses were obviously intent on making a kill and combed their way through the mopane scrub, intermittently checking the shoreline for any unsuspecting game. Fortunately for them, as the inland water sources continue to dry up, herds of kudu are now loitering by the lakeshore area, and one bull roamed into the Eastern Pride girls. I located them the following morning with full stomachs and enjoying the merciful breeze skimming off the lake. At c. 200kgs, with an edible biomass of c. 140kgs, this kill has provided each lioness with a feed that equates to at least 30% of their own body weight! And very little of this amount has gone to waste over the last 48hrs.
After such indulgence the lions can afford to expend a little extra energy on other behaviours such as play and “Matusadona” was making the most of this by using a small gully to ambush her two passing pride mates as they went down to drink from the lake.
The Eastern Pride overall seem to be doing well and I imagine will continue to do so as more prey becomes available on the lakeshore, however with lioness “Jenje” still absent the dynamics of these young lionesses may still shift.
This update authored by Principal Researcher Rae Kokes