A little water never hurt anyone
November 29 2012

Kariba has long been an area favoured by the lions, and this is where we found them in the early morning of the 20th. It was a hot morning, and the main behaviour of note was a sleepy relay as the pride one by one rotated around the tree chasing the shade as the morning wore on.

Resting in Kariba

Waterpan 3 was the place to be on the afternoon of the 21st, albeit briefly. Despite a sleepy start, we were soon on the move as the lions headed East through the site weaving their way through Puku Dambo and through the centre of the site. Fortunately for us they continued to the far east of the site where earlier in the day a scavenge opportunity had been left for them. Usually these are discovered and kills made after dark and so being able to observe them in broad daylight allows us to spend some time looking at the feeding dynamics among the group. Having walked three quarters of the site, they began to pick up on an interesting scent as they ambled along the road between Sahara and Chobe. Momentarily we were left alone as a cloud of dust kicked up and by the time it cleared the seven lions had vanished. When we caught up to them again they were all busy feeding in Chisamu. 

Rusha leads Temi, Kela, Loma, Kwandi, Leya and Zulu through a greening Dambwa

With food on the agenda there was little else to note, and for the rest of the afternoon we watched on as Zulu hogged the vast majority of the food and the females made kamikaze runs to grab whatever they could as Zulu flew into a furious rage. So we weren’t surprised to return on a very cool and overcast morning on the 22nd to find the pride, minus its tantrum throwing male, back at pan 3. Judging by their stomach sizes the females had all managed to feed overnight, but given Zulu’s absence they’d clearly had enough of his tyrannical behaviour. Assuming he was still at the previous day’s location, we left the girls to confirm this and bumped into him as he was crossing in the tall grasses of Sahara into Bwizu.

Zulu crossing into Bwizu

A brief sniff around at waterpan 2 and a quick call confirmed the girls weren’t here, so nose to the ground he continued West towards pan 3. On the rare occasions when Zulu isn’t with the pride, his reappearance causes mass hysteria amongst the females. Not this morning though. A couple of terse glances over their shoulders as he approached pan 3 was about as good as it got. Zulu was most definitely in the dog house. As he came to drink (for a record-breaking 10 minutes straight) the girls gathered behind him to give him a cursory sniff before Loma led them West.

Having now sated his appetite and his thirst, Zulu finally emerged from the water to discover everyone had vanished and made his way after them. Luckily for the girls he had left them a fair amount of the previous days’ scavenge, and even luckier when he arrived back on the scene he had lost all interest in feeding and sat a good 50m from them. As the morning wore on a few drops of rain began to fall from the grey skies, which ignited Rusha’s playful side. Perhaps he was just the closest to her, or perhaps it was a reprimand for yesterday’s antics, but Zulu took the full force of her exuberance.

Rusha and Zulu

The pride was back in Kariba on the 24th and the sun was out meaning a quiet morning was spent resting under some well-used shrubs. But as the day passed, the clouds once more gathered and overnight on the 26th a quite unbelievable amount of rain fell. The roads were bound to be water logged so we gave them until the afternoon to dry out a little to hopefully make driving around the site not quite so hair-raising.

That afternoon we tracked the lions to Chisamu, sleeping with full bellies under a thicket. Half an hour later, they became vigilant to something East of their location and one by one began to reposition themselves for a better look. Squinting through trees, branches and bushes we didn’t have a clue what had so caught their attention. Then Rusha stood into an alert position and began to advance. As she reached 50m, Temi led the rest of the pride up behind her and they turned North East.

On the borders of Tsavo and Sahara

Not wanting to ruin any possibility of a hunt with the sound of the vehicle we waited a decent amount of time to let them get ahead of us before following. But by the time we caught up to them between Tsavo and Sahara several minutes later there was little evidence of what had drawn them to the spot. Setting up camp under two trees the visual exploration of the area continued on and off throughout the afternoon but mostly social grooming and rest won the day.

Loma

Yesterday (28th) we found them resting along Grand Canyon, between pans 2 and 3. The first thing that was apparent was that Loma and Leya had what looked suspiciously like fresh blood on their faces. With no one else showing any evidence of being involved in the sisters’ sneaky stalking efforts we set off for a game count to try and determine if it was puku or impala on the menu. But the game had other ideas and was hiding in the dense tree lines, so a full count wasn’t possible. When we returned to Grand Canyon the lions had of course vanished; clearly on the move as their signals got louder and then quieter, then louder and then quieter it took a good 20 minutes before we were able to locate them in Chobe. We were just in time to catch a bit of play between Rusha and Zulu, and a few social interactions before they collapsed en masse in the middle of the road.

Catching up with the pride in Chobe

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