On the 23rd the injured lioness F101, "Ivory" was still in the same location of the Kanjedza River area, still holding her paw ever-so carefully, as she rested, and still showing no signs of having fed substantially. The wound was continuing to seep and the swelling had not subsided as she gazed forlornly across the water. After a few sombre hours she appeared to strike up the energy to rise to her paws with little difficultly and focused on 2 juvenile crocodiles on a sand bank 50m away. This staring continued for quite some time, to no avail, however it did prove the lioness was very capable of standing with significant weight on her injured paw. Eventually, after giving up on the crocodile mouthfuls, “Ivory” made here way East where I lost her to the steep cliff faces.
The following day Jenje Boys males M108, “Toulouse” and “Mukadza” arrived in the Kanjedza River area to join up with Kanjedza Pride lioness F115, “Kanjedza”. “Mukadza” once again was leading the way in a mating bout with the lioness as “Toulouse” watched on. “Mukadza” appears to be mating the most out of the coalition of 3 and perhaps these favours are aiding his confidence as his aggression seems to be increasing. A rather short though intense brawl broke out in the morning as “Mukadza” launched at nearby “Toulouse” after mating with “Kanjedza”. The attack, although seemingly out-of-the-blue, is most likely to be “Mukadza” asserting his dominance in the presence of another male and also displacing aggression/tension during mating. The cat fight was caught by the resident National Geographic cameraman and it is quite clear “Toulouse” was taken by surprise but did not quite submit and threw a few impressive blows in retaliation to his smaller bachelor pride member. As quickly as it had started the fight ended and having enough of such outbursts “Toulouse” made his was to a nearby spring to drink and sleep in peace.
New scars can be seen across “Mukadza’s” face that are certainly older than the recent male-on-male scuffle and also look to be from a far more viscous fight. I suspect that in fact “Mukadza” may very well of had an aggressive encounter with lioness “Ivory” last week resulting in these scars and her paw injury. The 2 have rarely been sighted together and on the few times they have there has been very little interaction. This is also true for male M109, “Madoda”, and despite finding “Ivory’s" litter of 2 with “Toulouse” in a seemingly peaceful encounter, I have been concerned over how these other 2 males may react to the cubs. I sadly believe the worst may have taken place and the cubs have been possibly killed by “Mukadza”. “Ivory” has not yet returned to the area where the incident may have taken place and the cubs are thought to be of an age where they would mostly follow their mother rather than remind behind in a den. Their extended absence suggests they may sadly be gone.
Infanticide naturally occurs amongst lions and in fact has its role in increasing cub survival. By killing offspring males are effectively bringing lionesses of a pride into heat again often around a similar time which in turn will result in cubs, sired by the new males, being born within approximately 1 month of one another. This has shown to increase cub survival as numerous lionesses with young will jointly care for cubs together in a ‘creche’.
In a bid to keep as much distance as possible between her and the males “Ivory” headed East and eventually found herself at Changa Safari Camp. After strolling along the habour to inspect the boats she proceeded to inspect the shoes of a Changa guide left by the habour, and steal one! The paw prints around the leather shoes were a sure give away but despite locating her and following her around the back of the camp the shoe was never retrieved…
A close watch was kept on “Ivory” through to the 25th where she was relocated on the lakeshore in the midsts of a painstakingly slow and tense stalk towards some impala grazing. After an hour or so of very precise and gentle tip-toeing the lioness lost her ambush opportunity but did manage a small chase of a scrub hare. Once a predator begins to lose condition from lack of food and/or injury they are faced with a conundrum - keep energy consumption minimal with refraining from hunting but risk further loss of condition, or utilise last reserves in a bid to catch a sufficient meal but again risk further loss of condition or even worsen an injury.
“Ivory” has since returned to the Nyamuni River area, which she often frequents, since the males have moved West, yet my efforts to keep up with her and search for signs of the cubs may soon come to an abrupt halt with the what is hoped the imminent onset of the rains.