A Mark of Independence
November 19 2015

A Mark of Independence

It was the 9th of November when the research team first noticed a new phenomenon within the Dambwa Pride. On entering the release site that morning, the research team went to check on the water pans. The team first approached Pan 2 and discovered some ears poking above the top of the grass line; it was the RS sub-adults. The team slowly drove closer as the three young lions approached the pan for a nice long drink in preparation for the ever increasing heat. The research team took note that the three were on their own for the first time in a while, and continued to observe until the three moved off - possibly to join the rest of the pride.

RS1, RS2, RS3

After checking on another water pan, the research team set out to look for the rest of the pride. They eventually found them relaxing under the shade of a big tree in the Kariba area of the site.  The research team counted the tan bodies that were try to stay cool, but only counted 9 lions. Interestingly, the three sub-adults had not made their way back to the pride as expected. The morning carried on with little activity to report, and after the morning session was complete the research team retired to their breakfast outside the site.  It was expected that that on their return to the pride – they would most likely find them under the same tree. On approaching the release site gate the team noticed three pairs of ears. After taking a detour via a different gate to access the site, the team confirmed who the ears belonged to; again, it was the three RS sub-adults under their own bit of shade. The research team took their data once more and carried on to where the rest of the pride had been resting. Only two lions, Leya and Zulu, were fully visible with the others crammed under a thicket to escape the heat.  The research team decided to go back to the three sub adults and take data on lions that they could actually see and identify. They weren’t far from the pride, perhaps only 200m away, but far enough to make a statement of the beginning of their roles as independent members of the pride.


At first it seemed that this was a one-time thing, however, on November 11th, the research team once again found the three RS sub-adults on their own, near water pan 3. RS3 started to walk off in the pride’s direction; the research team tried to follow, but quickly lost visual amongst the thickets. Taking another route the research team located the rest of the pride in the Kariba area. RS3 soon joined the group, bounding over to greet her mother, Rusha, before plopping down beside her. Moments later, RS1 arrived as well, with the same actions. The research team waited to see if RS2 would also join the group, but he was nowhere to be seen. After breakfast and returning into the site, the team discovered that the pride had moved off to water pan 3 – where all 12 lions were now present.


The RS sub-adults seem to be expanding their horizons and appear more comfortable to be on their own, without mom! 


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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