Food fight
September 12 2012

With the change in season the Dambwa pride has been suffering from a seemingly permanent case of heat exhaustion lately. But this morning on the 12th some windy weather brought a little life to the seven lions. Still technically only spring, the last few weeks have rocketed well past the 30 degree mark, so you can hardly blame the lions for being somewhat sedate as they struggle to keep cool.

Thankfully the nights are still fairly cold at this point, and even though the lions have been resting up during the day the fresh tracks we find in the mornings all around the site certainly suggest they’re still active once the sun goes down. With this in mind, we left them a scavenge late yesterday afternoon on the border of Chisamu and Chobe. Returning to the site early this morning, we found them not in their usual daytime hang out of Kariba but at the scavenge spot in the South Eastern end of the site.

Loma enjoying the last scraps of the scavenge

Initially, we could only see Zulu and Loma, who was still feeding from what little was left. Taking a closer look at the remains we could estimate that the pride had discovered their free meal at around 04:00-05:00 this morning. But we were missing five members of the pride. A short drive about 200m further down the road and five heaving stomachs were spotted in a thicket about 20m off of the main road. Despite being fit to burst Kwandi had brought a small snack along with her and was busy gnawing away on this. As she left them, Rusha was in like a rocket to take over.

With the pride rarely apart we faced a dilemma which we rarely have to deal with… which group to spend the morning with? As the figure of Loma approached from the scavenge site towards the rest of the females, Kela rose and headed in the direction from which Loma had just arrived. Deciding that Zulu and the revolving visiting ladies may pay off more in terms of activity and behaviour we left the sleeping females and headed off to join Zulu & co.

Kela inspects the remains on offer

Arriving back at the original spot just in time to see Kela grab a piece of something and head off into a bush as Zulu gnawed for all his teeth were worth on some other scrap, we began a 60-minute activity budget on him. Soon Kela re-emerged and headed back towards the girls leaving Zulu still crunching away on every last scrap by himself.

Mid-way through the hour, Zulu suddenly seemed to become aware that he had been abandoned and rose several times to scan the area. After a few false starts he began walking off in the direction of the females’ resting place, only to stop half way (perhaps picking up their scent and reassured as to where they were) and several seconds later making a U-turn back to the remains.

Zulu weighs the pros and cons of joining the girls...

Ten minutes later he set off again towards the girls and this time joined them. Of course his arrival caused a mass of social interactions – primarily from Kwandi, which earned her an investigatory sniff from Zulu and a display of Flehman – before Rusha began leading the pride back to the scavenge site. Temi lagged a few minutes behind her pride mates, but when she caught up she brought another flurry of social interactions with her.


Kela makes her way back to join the pride

The Ks began feeding almost immediately whilst everyone else slumped in various patches of shade. Goodwill between pride members often disappears around food – even when full and with only the most meagre of scraps left. First it was Kela, who having been chewing on something about 30m from the rest of the pride got chased off by Leya as she tried to re-join the group, settling instead about five metres on the outskirts of the huddle. Then as Kwandi tried to nuzzle up closer to Zulu she got a firm slap on the rump for daring to disturb his rest. So firm in fact, that it appeared one of his claws became caught and the reprimand almost turned into a full blown fight as Kwandi gave back as good as she got.


After the breakfast break there were a couple of maintenance issues that needing attending to in the site, which meant we only briefly got to stop in and see the lions. With the high winds getting higher the pride had blown (or waddled) a couple of hundred metres further East and into Sahara. The females were piled under one tree with Zulu 30m away under his own. As we’d driven past the scavenge site we’d disturbed half a dozen white-backed and hooded vultures who had now claimed the remains for themselves. Despite being full to capacity, Zulu couldn’t help himself and sat up to watch but in the end left the birds to it and flopped back down to digest the meal.


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