Tsavo and Sahara set the scene for the pride on the 28th May. A well-fed and contented pride was spread over the borders of these two areas when we arrived first thing that morning. With such full stomachs as one would expect it was a relatively lazy morning – except an injection of mischief and fun was brought courtesy of Loma and Leya – and when these two sisters are in the mood for playful antics you’d better get out of the way.
As Zulu discovered…
Loma tackles Zulu
Then sister Leya has her turn
and again… and again!
Loma's turn again
To Zulu's credit, he took their exuberance well and allowed them to clamber all over him like a pair of over-excited cubs.
The following morning and Kariba was the lions’ chosen resting spot. It was a slow morning with the lions continuing to sleep off the previous days’ haul of meat from their bellies. But a little after 8am Loma sat bolt upright and began roaring; Rusha and Temi duly joined Loma’s announcement… The rest of the pride however struggled even to open their eyes, never mind join in.
Rusha (front right), Temi (back right) and Loma (back left) club together for a morning roar... everyone else, not so much
A quiet week or so ensued in the site which was then rather rudely shattered on the 7th June by a large fire, which entered the site from the Eastern boundary and swept affecting around 80% of the area. Happily for the lions, in April when the grass was still very green a much calmer fire burnt along the Western boundary, and it was within this already burnt and safe section of the site where they stayed as their home went up in smoke around them.
By mid-afternoon the fire was still burning along the southern boundary but we were able to get in to take a look at just how much damage had occurred. The lions were still close to the Western boundary, looking none-the-worse for the experience – if a little more alert than usual. As we arrived Kela and Zulu were sitting some 30 metres from the others and over the course of the afternoon we noticed that Zulu appeared to be “covering” her. This is the process whereby the male shadows a female, usually in – or coming into – oestrus – to make sure they monopolise any opportunity to mate. Kela definitely wasn’t in oestrus yet and seemed more pestered by Zulu’s constant presence than anything else, but Zulu wasn’t giving up…
Kela tries to shake Zulu off
By the 9th Kela still hadn’t come into heat, but Zulu was sticking to her like glue. And the afternoon of the 10th found the pride heaped under a tree in Kariba. Initially Kela and Zulu weren’t the centre of attention as the rest of the females engaged in a mass social session – with Kwandi and Temi pairing up as Leya groomed her sister. After several minutes of this, Kela decided to join in with her sisters, but Zulu wasn’t having any of it and was immediately on her tail. The rest of the females saw this as the perfect time to get out of the way and immediately began heading further North into Kariba while Zulu tried to mate a completely uninterested Kela. However, she wasn’t showing the same irritation towards his efforts as she had previously, just utter indifference.
Kwandi & Temi
Once he’d finished, Kela tacked herself on the end of the move with not surprisingly Zulu in hot pursuit. She caught up to them as they wove past water pan 1 and had a brief 30 seconds respite as Zulu stopped to scent mark– but then ran kicking up a cloud of soot behind him to catch up to her again. The rest of the afternoon was made up of numerous stops and starts as the lions found somewhere to rest, but instantly set out on the move again to get out of the way each time Zulu’s amorous affections took hold.
The next morning and Kela was hiding down in a dry riverbed, watched over by her admirer. The rest of the females were still keeping their distance and resting in various patches of shade a good 30-40m away from their beleaguered pride mate. However, despite appearances when Kela did eventually emerge from her hiding place she did in fact allow Zulu to mate her.
Impala watching the lions
With all interest between the couple dissipated, the pride was resting at water pan 3 early in the morning of the 17th. Clearly having fed well overnight with stomachs bulging, even a herd of impala grazing on the fresh shoots only 200m away could barely rouse their interest. With the grass mostly burnt away as the lions slept they were in full view of the impala and it wasn’t long before they spotted the slumbering cats. Their warning snorts managed to attract Zulu and Kwandi’s interest, but having fed so well and having already lost the advantage to the game any sort of movement was clearly out of the question.
Kwandi watching the impala
Zulu - bringing up the rear as always
The following afternoon we found the pride led by Temi on the move through Kariba between pans 1 and 3. With Zulu bringing up the rear and lagging a fair way behind we missed out on a lot of what was going on up ahead with the girls as they made their way along the Northern boundary, until Leya suddenly veered off the road as they crossed Bwizu into Sahara. Zulu and Loma decided to follow her as the rest of the pride continued their march East. As the trio disappeared into some bushes we could hear a brief bout of growling followed by some gnawing. Inching closer we could see that Loma and Zulu were gnawing over the bones of a recent meal. After several minutes Leya decided to get on the move again, Zulu soon followed but Loma remained behind with a bony old leg. Just as we caught up to Zulu back on the boundary we were surprised to see that Leya was nowhere in sight. Following the male, we wove further along when suddenly Leya appeared 30m behind us racing along the road at an urgent trot. Pulling the vehicle over to one side so that she could pass Zulu was completely unaware of her presence until she went running past him. At which point he too decided to put on a brief spurt – but that only lasted for a couple of seconds before Leya disappeared further up the road and he slowed back down to a more respectable pace.
Zulu, waiting for Loma to catch up
A few minutes later the process repeated with Loma, who again ran straight past Zulu and who in turn collapsed at the side of the road for several minutes. Having regained himself in the shade after a brief rest, Zulu continued in the 2Ls wake and finally caught up to all six of his females just on the border of Tsavo. After a full afternoon of walking everyone was now exhausted and collapsed in various piles, except for Kwandi who remained in an alert stance about 40m ahead of the pride. We’d seen some impala in this area of the site earlier in the afternoon. Whether or not she was aware of something’s presence close by or was on high alert to the fires burning a couple of km south of the site wasn’t clear and as the sun started setting she eventually found a spot to rest too – but with ears pricked and eyes wide open.