Calm before the storm
January 2 2015

Monday the 15th December was a quiet morning. Zulu and Kela were resting out in the open on the border of Puku Dambo and Bwizu. The rest of the pride was present, but were settled too deep in the bushes to be viewable. Asides from a brief bout of scent marking from Zulu and a quick rub up against a tree, the morning had nothing more to offer. By Wednesday 17th we weren’t having much more luck as the pride were now holed up in the northern treeline, totally out of sight throughout the morning. While also providing shade from the summer sun, these treeline boundaries in the site also provide excellent coverage from heavy rains – and we have been having some serious storms of late.

Another attempt to enter the site on the 18th was made. This time the entire pride, minus the LE cubs, were close to Pan 3 and thankfully on full display. While there wasn’t anything spectacular in terms of action or behaviour going on, after a week of no sightings or having trips into the site rained off, it was sufficient just to be able to see the lions. The weather had other ideas however, and by mid-morning the clouds were building once more.

After Kela’s “hissy fit” at the RS cubs earlier this month, it was encouraging to see her and RS3 spending a little time re-establishing their bonds with a hearty grooming session. But then the rains came and while Zulu’s Mohawk quite impressively withstood the deluge – we lasted 10 minutes before the torrent of water became too much to continue.

It was all about the boys on the 20th December. The pride had once more taken up residence in a well-fortified thicket in Chisamu. So well-fortified in fact, that we could barely make any of them out in the thick tangle of branches. So thank heavens for little boys as RS2, LE1 and LE3 made sure our visit wasn’t totally a non-event by finding a small opening in the vegetation in front of our vehicle for a quick play about. But even that wasn’t to last long and soon the three young males had retreated further back and out of sight bringing to an end a fairly typical Dambwa-rainy season week.

On the afternoon of the 21st we initially found Kela playing with the LE cubs by Pan 2, in the company of the more sedate forms of Leya, Loma and Zulu. A few minutes later, RS3 led her mother and siblings to the group and not long after that Kwandi joined too, so that we had the full set. With the cool weather and a storm threatening, the six cubs were in fine form, but the ever-expanding vegetation was making it hard for us to record the play abouts as they dashed between one set of bushes and the next.

As the skies continued to darken, Rusha led Kwandi, Loma and Leya on a move East, and after bullying their younger siblings a few minutes longer, the RS litter soon followed Kela as she led the next move. That left the LE cubs with dad, Zulu – an ever-fascinating source of interest to both young and old apparently. After appearing to ponder for a moment as to whether to follow the rest of the family or not, the 11-month olds decided to stick with Zulu and bombarded him with greetings before taking up a formation of regal poses along the road.

Males LE1 and LE3 often seem to have an idea at the same time and frequently act in almost telepathic unison. Simultaneously rising, they walked back over to dad for a greeting. In a reversal of roles, Zulu actually initiated a small bout of play with his sons. Perhaps feeling slightly intimidated, LE3 swiped back snarling and cowering. His tactic seemed to work, as Zulu’s focus was now on brother, LE1, but it seemed to have lost its light-hearted nature as he puffed up and cornered the young male in a bush before standing over him and bellowing a series of roars. LE1 did his best to slink unnoticed back across the road to his brother and sister.

After announcing his ire, Zulu strutted off in the direction which the rest of the pride had left earlier. The three LE cubs remained stationary and somewhat perplexed. They soon got over it however, and began chasing and jumping on one another as they clambered up and between trees and bushes. The arrival of the rains signalled our departure and we left the three siblings happily entertaining themselves, minus any bullying chaperones.

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