The Kwali Strategy
December 14 2015

Earlier this month, and following Kwali’s nose, the lionesses of the Ngamo pride picked up the pace to head towards a scavenge carcass carefully hidden on the far side of the site to their resting location.  Milo, and his son AS5, soon worked out what the sudden rush was for, and joined in the pursuit.  They ran along at the back of the pride, letting the females do the work to actually find the carcass.   Finally, one hour into the search, they came across the meat in the Valley section of the Ngamo Release Site.

Kwali heads up the pride

At the front of the pride, Kwali positioned herself across the carcass, to secure her meal.  As one of the smaller and lower ranking females in the pride, Kwali has adopted various strategies to ensure she gets her fair share around the dinner table.  Unable to rely on pure brawn to throw incoming pride members off the meal, Kwali sometimes simply lies across the meat with her full weight to literally hang on to her share.  It came as some amusement to the research team that as they watched the rest of the pride squabble and tear pieces off the carcass for consumption, Kwali remained spread-eagled across it, determined to hang on to the best seat at the dinner table: on it! 

This strategy leads to some tricky maneuverings for the rest of the pride members. The bigger, and more dominant lioness, Ashanti, tried to pull the carcass towards herself, but it proved to be more of a struggle than normal, thanks to the additional weight of Kwali sprawled across it.  And Kwali has learned never to let go!  Straddling the carcass, both the meat and Kwali were dragged some distance from the rest of the pride as Ashanti sought to claim her prize. Both lions were rewarded with a sizeable portion of the available food as they settled to share the piece that they held between them.

Different pride members have different tactics on encountering a scavenge opportunity.  On this occasion, Milo used his size and weight to grab some of the offals and carried them some meters away from the pride, to be enjoyed at leisure and in relative peace.  His son, AS5, sat 10 meters away from the squabbling lionesses and the food, waiting patiently for his opportunity. Possibly tired from his exertions in trying to keep up with the pride running for dinner, or perhaps an indication of AS5’s apparently still low rank within the pride, or even just a bit of lion wisdom, has taught AS5 not to try and get between 9 female lions and their food.  Wait long enough and your opportunity will come.  Sure enough, it did.  Spotting Nala, who had managed to break away from the rest of the pride with the remains of the offals, AS5 walked towards her and calmly took them from his aunt.

Nala wonders where her meal went

Returning to the release site the following day to see what remained of the scavenge, the research team found a few scraps of meat left on the bones and just three pride members remaining in the area chewing on them: Milo, and his daughter and son AS4 and AS5.  The rest of the pride were busy sleeping in the shade, back across the other end of the site, from where Kwali had first smelt the scavenge.  Slowly, AS4 returned to the pride, followed a little while later by Milo and AS5.  Content with full bellies, all earlier squabbles had been forgotten as all 11 lions squeezed and settled down together under the trees, trying to escape the heat of the unrelenting hot sun. 

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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