May 23 2012

On the 19th May we, by complete fluke, spotted a loitering Kwali in the Serengeti West area. The pride have not been located in the area for quite some time and suspicions surrounding Kwali's cause to be there grew. We slowly followed her deeper into the rippling ocean of grass and soon the floating bodies of gorged lions appeared dotted around a fresh zebra kill. A large portion had already been consumed leaving just the upper abdomen and head. As the sun began to rise further Milo used his last ounces of energy to pull the kill to a nearby island of thicket for shade and shelter. We left Milo and the cubs polishing off the carcass while we went to gather our sound equipment for a second territorial playback test. With most of the pride out in the open and guarding a kill our research team decided this would be the perfect scenario to test the prides territorial instincts. By 17:30pm the pride had split into two groups; Milo, Kenge, Ashanti, Kwali and cubs by the kill in Serengeti West, and Nala, Narnia and AT1 by water hole 2.

We decided to once again use our playback of 1 male and 4 females. With the pride split into two smaller groups we expected there to perhaps be a more subdued reaction as previously seen last month. We sounded the calls of the 5 intruders and quickly Milo and Kenge sat to attention. The cubs paused with mouths full of zebra meat whilst Ashanti and Kwali stood vigilant, listening intently. After a few seconds Milo managed to pull himself and his enormous belly to a prone position. He slowly began to walk (he had eaten A LOT of zebra) towards the roaring, then began to trot. As Sir ran off, Baywatch style, into the setting sun, Kenge took advantage of the situation and moved onto the kill alongside the cubs who had resumed feeding, seemingly happy that Dad was dealing with the neighbors. Ashanti and Kwali were observed approaching towards the calls as expected but soon paused and eventually sat again listening to Milo roaring in response from the Hwange area. We suspect the slower and more cautious reaction was due to the pride being separated into 2 smaller groups, therefore less likely to win during a conflict with intruders of a similar group size. The mass of meat consumed during the prior 12 hour period will have also added to Milo’s trot to the roars rather than a sprint. Overall though, another successful and interesting playback experiment!

On the 20th chaos ensued in Ngamo as the females were faced with a large spitting cobra! The females and AT1 slept soundly by water hole 1 after the previous day's feeding when the snake meandered its way smack, bang into the middle of the lions. Realising its mistake the snake soon appeared to panic and freeze. Just then AT1 sat up startled and faced the now hooded and threatened spitting cobra. She was a mere few cm’s from the neurotoxic/cytotoxic venomous snake and a single spit from this snake could blind her, and a bite on the face could potentially be fatal. Our researcher’s heart jumped into her throat as the stare off continued when fortunately Nala awoke. Seeing the upright snake Nala sprung to her paws, alerting the other lionesses who scattered. The snake then saw its opportunity for escape and slithered quickly to safety. The lionesses soon regrouped and settled back down, but AT1 was taking no chances. She quickly climbed up onto the other side of a large termite mound peering over for the snake for the rest for the afternoon.



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