Some cooler weather pushed its way through to Livingstone over the middle of the month and to take advantage of the more pleasant conditions, we opted for an early morning trip into the site on the 19th November. The pride was in Tsavo, finishing off a scavenge that had been put in the site the previous day. Despite the ideal weather conditions and the early hour no one was really interested in much other than sleeping.
Leya with her three 10-month olds... still suckling
Except that is for the LE cubs. Over the last month or so we’ve finally seen Leya start to wean her cubs with all attempts to suckle being rebuffed. That was until the 19th when after a few lazy bouts of play the cubs scampered after Leya into some bushes and all three began suckling - at almost 10-months old, that’s quite some feat. Cubs are generally weaned at around 6-8 months of age, as was the case with the RS cubs, but older cubs may take advantage of any opportunity that presents itself (as we saw on a couple of occassions with RS3 suckling from Leya several months after she'd been weaned by Rusha). However, having done all of the hard work of refusing her cubs for several weeks, Leya now appeared to be reversing her position… But it turned out this was only a temporary blip for a day or two before she once decided it was time to stop their milk.
RS1 enjoys an early morning dip
Early in the morning of the 21st November, the pride – or more specifically the cubs – were in full swing. We found them dotted around Pan 2, or in the case of RS1 in Pan 2. Taking full advantage of the fresh early morning air as the sun was still coming up, she not only got herself ankle deep in the pan but encouraged a fair few of her siblings to do the same – not surprisingly resulting in some rather muddy cubs, and non-more-so than RS1 herself (to view a video from that morning, click here).
There was a repeat performance on the morning of 23rd as we found Zulu making his way across Bwizu towards Pan 2, a few minutes later the females followed in his wake. Mothers Rusha and Leya however seemed distracted by something (or more likely 6 some things) behind them. Having paused on the road as the rest of the pride carried on towards the pan, after a minute or two’s thought the pair retraced their steps in search of their cubs who seemed to have dropped off the end of the move. We waited at Pan 2 with Zulu and gang, and sure enough several minutes later Rusha and her cohort appeared (with the RS cubs once more heading straight into the water) and a moment or two later Leya and her cubs following suit. The cubs indulged in some lazier play than on the 21st in the water before the pride headed off to pastures new… water pan 3.
Rusha and Leya on the 23rd
After a bit of a search on the morning of the 26th we found everyone except Zulu back at current favourite hang-out, Pan 2.
After a long drink, Kwandi kicked the pride into action moving them East. After weaving through the site, and in and out of sight, the pride arrived in Sahara and the unmistakable form of Zulu could be seen crossing an open area several hundred metres away. But he was in no mood for company and spent most of the morning huffing and growling in the tall grass at anyone who approached.
With "the big one" in such a foul mood the rest of the pride took to the best patch of shade they could find and settled in to watch Zulu's mane wobble about in the grass as he stomped around.
But there was no such comfort to be found later in the morning. With no rain since the 16th November temperatures have once more become massively uncomfortable. With Zulu now hogging the largest area of shade to himself the cubs and females had to stuff themselves in together into smaller areas of cover and panted ferociuosly to try and cool themselves down.