The Northern Boundary set the scene on the 21st August, although there wasn’t much of a scene to actually see. Only Rusha and Kela and the cubs were visible, but only just as they sat in dense grass on the border. Several rumbles were heard from higher up in the boundary, as presumably Zulu grumbled about something. We briefly spotted Temi for all of about 30 seconds as she shifted from one bush to another. Eventually even Kela left to join the others and disappeared from sight. With just Rusha and the cubs left in sort of semi-sight, the youngsters whined and complained as they ran after mum who also eventually sought shade higher up in the boundary.
Rusha leads the cubs higher into the Northern boundary
On the morning of the 25th the pride had shifted to Kariba, Temi was absent initially but soon joined the others from the direction of the closest waterpan. She had to search the area despite only being 50-60m from the pride as they all lay down in the tall grass. But the squealing of the cubs soon gave their location away.
The bar's open...
The lone male cub in the litter, RS2, found that straying too far from mum’s side is fraught with peril. Choosing to rest with the cubs’ apparent favourite aunt, Kwandi, he quickly discovered that not all of his aunts are quite as keen as she is. As he snuggled between Kwandi and Loma, the latter bared her teeth at him before moving several metres away.
A quiet few days ensued with Rusha apparently needing a break from the constant feeding regime the cubs had put her on, and appeared to be leaving them in a den for days at a time whilst she recovered her energy levels. With the youngest pride members out of sight and earshot, the adults could catch up on some serious napping.
On the afternoon of the 29th we arrived to find the pride spread over about 100-120m. Notorious hunter Temi’s eyes were riveted to the North East, Rusha and Kela, who were about 80m away from Temi also had eyes glued in the same direction – whilst everyone else seemed to be resettling, presumably after some sort of hunting effort on whatever the other three were watching for now.
Having by all accounts missed the action, we set off for a game count – hoping that even if their efforts that afternoon had been unsuccessful, we could at least work out who and what had fallen victim in recent days. Having counted everything non-lion that we could find, we returned to find Rusha had disappeared. Her signal was just about audible, but with her likely going to the den we chose not to look for her.
Kwandi and Zulu
Kwandi seemed restless. Approaching first Temi for a greeting and a sniff and then Zulu for a bit of mild flirting she tried to walk amongst the rest of the group; presumably in some sort of effort to rouse them from their sleep. As she set off in an Easterly direction, Temi was on her feet almost immediately and following; not far behind were Loma, Kela and a very reluctant Leya. Zulu did his best to ignore this attempt at activity.
Kela, Loma and Leya however, only continued for about 100m or so before sitting down. We decided to stick with our hunters, Kwandi and Temi, and caught up to them just as they were disappearing from their pride mates’ views and passing by waterpan 1. Both stopped for several minutes, scanning and craning their necks, before Kwandi led them towards pan 3.
As they disappeared into Puku Dambo, Kela led Loma, Leya and Zulu along in the same direction; although some considerable distance behind. In a rare burst of mischief Zulu seemed to half slap Leya on the bum, half jump on her. Leya was decidedly unimpressed and chased him off.
This however seemed to only spur Zulu on further as he took over the lead of his sub-group and picked up the pace considerably. The group stopped for few minutes at waterpan 3, before once more Zulu propelled them on. As the group neared the east of Puku Dambo we could pick out Temi and Kwandi entering Bwizu not too far ahead. As the afternoon drew to an end the six continued on their relentless march; no doubt in search of the herd of impala who nervously watched them from a safe distance away…
Zulu and RS3
The 2nd September, and the RS cubs were with the pride again. Dad seemed to be flavour of the afternoon as the cubs crowded him and rubbed repeatedly up against him and only leaving him when Rusha offered herself for a suckling session. It was a quiet afternoon until just before 17:00 when Temi, Kwandi, Rusha and Zulu headed about 30m out and took up a watch line. Kela, Leya and Loma showed only mild curiosity in what was going on, but gamely swivelled themselves round to keep an eye on their pride mates. The cubs would from time to time poke their heads out of the bushes in which they were hiding but seemed reluctant to leave their safety with both mum and dad so far away.
Boldest of the trio - RS1 pokes her head out of the bushes
Unfortunately, just as the cubs had braved the open and began making their way over to join the pride, something set the seven adults off running towards the North. This sudden burst of activity only served to scare the cubs to within an inch of their lives and they went scampering back into the cover of the bushes as fast as their little legs would carry them. By the time we’d caught up with the runners though whatever had caused them to race off like a shot apparently wasn’t worth it as they all stood around in North Kariba looking completely lost.
The afternoon of the 4th was swelteringly hot and accordingly the lions were bundled in the biggest block of shade they could find. It was a long wait for any kind of activity but eventually as Temi’s self-grooming progressed into grooming Loma, before Kela joined in and one by one the pride slowly began to wake up. After a lot of determined peering into the distance from Rusha, Temi finally took charge of things and led the pride in a move towards waterpan 3.
Clear left! - Zulu makes a quick inspection of the West of the site
En-route Zulu effortlessly leapt into the branches of a tree and began scanning to the West. Satisfied that all was well in that direction, he now seemed keen to come back down to earth and catch up with the girls. Having confidently ascended the tree he didn’t seem quite so sure about the descent and a quick glance back from the vehicle after we’d passed him confirmed it was not a graceful affair.
Kela, Temi, Leya, Loma & Kwandi (left) and Rusha (right)
A brief stop at Waterpan 3 allowed the girls to take some refreshment on-board and for Zulu to catch up. It was also our signal to leave them to their evening’s hunting.
Zulu saunters to the waterpan - in his own time