What a Carrion
August 18 2016

On the morning of 9th August, the research team were making their routine journey around the Ngamo release site in search of the pride, when a murder of crows taking flight to the trees caught their attention.  The presence of the research vehicle must have disturbed the birds, but this interested the team greatly as activity like this is usually indicative of the birds scavenging on carrion.

To see if this was indeed the case, the team switched off the engine to allow the crows to return to their natural behaviour and patiently observed.  Sure enough the crows began to return to the ground.  Once the team had seen where they were gathering they switched on the engine and went to investigate.  What they discovered confirmed their suspicions; the pride had made a kill sometime during the evening and there, beside a tree, was the vestige of an impala!  The presence of blonde mane hair lying among impala fur led the team to believe that a scrap involving AS5 must have taken place around the kill, but the team were yet to locate the pride for any further tell-tale signs.   

The remains of the impala, courtesy of Clauda van Zanten

The team eventually caught up with the pride along the boundary in the Etosha area of the site, and the appearance of the lions told a little of the story.  With their faces and necks stained by blood, Nala, AT1, and KE4 all looked to have played a significant part in the capture, however how much of the impala they got to eat we will unfortunately never know.  At least the team were pleased to see that AT1 and KE4 had participated in the hunt, even if they were a little less surprised that top hunter Nala had been involved.  The pride took a rest for a little while, before eventually strolling along the boundary towards ‘Tree Tops’ where they remained for the rest of the day soaking up the much welcomed sun.

AT1 showing signs of a good meal

A couple of days later on the 13th, the pride were thought to be on the hunt again.  The lions had spent their day snoozing in ‘Etosha’ but by late afternoon, not long after Milo had returned from his visit to the waterhole, a herd of impala caught the attention of AT1 and she headed off towards ‘Kruger’.  Her departure initiated a movement by the rest of the pride, and they all began to follow her as the sun started to set.  Of course Milo took a little longer to respond, but the team knew that he would eventually catch up once he had lost sight of his pride, and so they joined the procession too. 

The pride was quickly moving out of sight as, although it is dry season in Ngamo, there are still many areas of dense bush in the site.  As the lions headed deeper into ‘Tree Tops’, the research vehicle battled to keep up with them.  Through the long grass and over shrubs the vehicle bashed, while assisting volunteers tried to keep an eye on any lion they could.  “There!” shouted one volunteer as Ashanti came into view but just as quickly as she appeared she was gone again!  “Here’s Milo” another volunteer called out but, as the vehicle struggled to get through the bush, he too disappeared from view and the team was left with nothing but long grass and the quietness of dusk. 

The team had no option but to call it a day, as the light was fading quickly and so they reversed out of the thick shrub cover and headed to the nearest road.  As the vehicle turned onto Route 66, hey presto, there was AT1 and she was still leading the pride on their quest for a meal.  The team left the pride parading along the road and they made their way out of the release site, wishing the lions luck for a successful evening’s hunt. 

AT1 leading the hunt

The next day, AT1’s efforts finally paid off.  The pride had been resting in ‘Etosha’ all day but as the team arrived to their location AT1 began to leave, and one by one her pride mates followed her again.  It wasn’t the best decision the research team ever made to wait for Milo to catch up, because way up ahead they caught sight of three females running.  They were trying to make up the distance as quickly as they could when the rest of the pride broke out into a sprint too.  The team were beside themselves with excitement; were they chasing impala?

The team eventually managed to overtake Milo, but by the time they caught up with the rest of the pride, the females were all covered in blood and aggressively squabbling for whatever piece of impala they could grab. Just as it seemed as if Milo was going to go hungry, he barged his way among the group.  Suddenly, from within a whirl of dust and fierce growls, Milo and Kenge emerged.  They both had their jaws clenched on the same piece of meat and were trying to run away with it.  Kenge put up an incredible fight against Milo, managing to hold him back while she pulled in the opposite direction.  Eventually it was the meat that gave way and the two lions ran their separate ways with their reward.  Meanwhile the tussle between Milo and Kenge had triggered Phyre to become extremely hostile and, even though Milo and Kenge had moved away, she was still growling aggressively over her food with a fearsome look in her eye. 

It was all over in less than an hour and slowly the pride moved on from the kill site and headed to ‘Amboseli’ where ‘bath time’ commenced; cleaning themselves and each other as the sun set on a very successful day.

Kwali cleaning up


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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