Dambwa Cubs Finding Their Feet
March 6 2015

On February 18th, the lions were immersed in the tall grasses of Sahara, and it took a considerable portion of time until we were able to see them and confirm the presence of the cubs. Eventually, the pride made a move into neighbouring Chisamu. As they were on the move,  we were able to do a quick head count as they crossed the road, confirming that all 12 pride members were present. Once they had settled into their new resting spot, we had slightly better visibility of all pride members.  It wasn’t until later in the afternoon that we were treated to a few minutes of activity.

This came courtesy of RS1, who had been hidden from view for most of the earlier session. She walked through the group and away, towards the Eastern Road. She was perhaps only 30m away when she vanished again into the tall grass. It was only once she began calling that we were able to confirm she had not walked off. For a 19-month-old, there was not a great deal of power to her calls, but they were certainly enough to rouse the interest of the rest of the pride. The interest first came from her siblings, RS2 and RS3, who immediately sprang to their feet and began making their way to her to investigate. The rest of the pride merely sat up and alert to her calls.

The recent behaviour was an interesting development to observe with RS1. Traditionally within the litter, it has been her naturally bolder sister who has been the leader, and her brother who has always been quick to shadow RS3’s initiatives. RS1 was very much the runt of the litter, and whilst she has overgrown in confidence over the last 12 months she still quite often plays a secondary role to her larger and bolder siblings. Following this observation, where RS1 made an effort to encourage some sort of move or activity, it might be a little too soon to assume that she is now a force for leadership within the pride. It may, however, be a sign of things to come for RS1.

The following afternoon we were carrying out maintenance tasks in the East of the site before heading off to find the pride. As we passed the spot where the lions had been the previous afternoon, although there was no sign of them, there was the unmistakable smell of rotting meat. We came across a large flattened area of grass with the tell-tale signs of a kill. Whilst we could not find any bones or scraps in the tall grass to confirm the species of the victim, we did find some obvious drag marks and a spot where the carcass was likely opened.

We eventually found the pride resting in Puku Dambo, along the road to Water Pan 3. Leya and Kela were resting with the cubs, whilst the rest of the pride was close by according to their signals.

We have had considerably less rain this season than is typical, and temperatures at the moment are more akin to those we experience at the start of summer without regular rains to help cool things off – in other words, conditions are stifling. So it was no surprise that there was not a great deal of activity to observe other than the odd move from one spot to another to chase what little shade was available.

While all of the cubs are still developing their roles within the pride, LE1’s position has been very obvious for a long time now- thanks to his mother’s affections. He has been Leya’s favourite from the very beginning and, whilst Leya does not ignore her other son and only daughter, it is abundantly clear that there is a far stronger association between her and LE1.

Beginning the afternoon sitting with the cubs, midway through, Leya had moved off 20m or so to sit with Rusha and Kwandi in a bush. She later returned to the cubs who were then with Kela. She let off a soft moan as she approached her offspring, alerting them to her presence.LE1 was instantly on his feet and luxuriated with a greeting from his mum. A quick sniff from her to confirm his identity verified she had the individual she was looking for. She then led him back to the bush she had just left. The two of them rubbed up against one another throughout their short walk. LE2 followed but was given no such reception when she caught up, and LE3, taking his cue from aunt Kela, merely watched on before collapsing back into the grass.

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