Saturday the 28th of October was a wild and windy day in the Dambwa release site. The research team arrived into the site to a strong breeze and rain clouds on the horizon. All was calm with the pride were sound asleep resting in the Kariba area. Kela was in the middle of the lion puddle and LE1 had his head laid on Loma’s abdomen. After sitting with the pride for 35 minutes, all of a sudden, Kela raised her head. This caused the rest of the puddle to raise theirs as well, all looking around until Kela jumped to her feet and ran off towards the long grass. The rest of the lions followed her movements without question and ran along behind her.
The calm before the storm!
Zulu had remained resting during the mass exit. Slowly, he rose to his feet and moved off in the direction of the pride, knowing that if they were on a hunt, he could turn up late and still push his way in! With no game to be found in the vicinity, the pride had resumed their rest in the middle of the road. Before long, they moved off again for a quick search through some long grass and a drink at the water pan. They continued their movement following the road system in the release site. Bordered by tall spear grass, and with a sprinkling of rain and a cool wind blowing, conditions were perfect for a spot of stalking, chasing and ankle tapping each other. It was not only the younger members of the pride that engaged in this play behaviour, the adults joined in too.
LE2 hid in the groove of the road, before sprinting from her ambush position to chase Kela who had been meandering through the long grass. LE1 was walking further along the road as the two females sprinted past him. He chased them into an area of Mopani trees to weave in and out of. RS1 immediately joined the chase as the lions ran passed her, pouncing on top of LE3 to bring him into the game too. Following the play, the research team turned a corner to find the road ahead filled with tails pointing directly in the air and lions chasing, ankle tapping and pouncing on each other. Zulu was even seen playfully trotting along the road behind Kwandi!
LE2 getting ready to jump on Kela
LE1 and LE3 stalking other members of the pride
The most playful of pride movements
As the pride took a shortcut through the grass, the research team followed the road to meet up with them in the Sahara area of the site. They arrived and waited in anticipation until they started to see tails flicking through the long grass. RS1 hid behind a shrub and pounced on Rusha as she walked passed. Mother and daughter then both hid behind the same shrub to ambush an unsuspecting Leya. All three ran further down the road and stopped to wait for Kwandi and Loma. Kwandi took a detour, continuing to walk through the grass, but Loma was walking straight into the trap set by the other females. She continued to advance without hesitation, walking straight up to Leya and ruining the surprise attack.
Play continued as the pride moved through the whole of the release site, eventually stopping at the intersection of the Tsavo, Sahara and Chisamu areas. Having spent so much time playing and chasing, the lions all flopped into a patch of short grass to rest as the rain started to get heavier.
About the Dambwa Lion Release Site
The 6 adults (1 male and 5 females) of the ‘Dambwa Pride’ were captive born and released into the ‘Dambwa Lion Release Site’ in 2011, 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 6 offspring (3 male and 3 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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