Thursday (29th November) found the pride in Kariba in the afternoon, with Temi, Rusha and Loma resting together about 50m from the others. Initially, it seemed as though we were in for a quiet afternoon, but that couldn’t have been further from the truth.
Rusha and Leya rose from their spot and walked over to join the others, both greeting Zulu and Kela, as we headed off for a game count around the site. We were rewarded with our first sighting of the year of a new-born impala in Dambwa. Returning to the pride some 30 minutes later, we saw Rusha moving a short distance East of their previous location before picking out Kwandi sitting in the tall grass just ahead of her. Anticipating that the pride was on the move, the last thing we expected was the sight of Rusha displaying towards Kwandi – over and over again. As Kwandi tried desperately to avoid Rusha’s overly-amorous attentions, the ruckus drew the attention of the rest of the pride and we could see them peering over the grass to see what was going on.
Rusha puts on a show for Kwandi
As Kwandi tried to escape her new-found admirer it seemed likely that as Zulu was only mildly curious in Rusha’s behaviour, oestrus had probably only just set in. A few minutes later a slightly calmer Rusha resettled next to the Sanga boundary as Kwandi led a move up towards Grand Canyon with the others in tow. While Rusha stayed put, Zulu remained briefly to scent mark a bush before heading after the others. It wasn’t much later that Rusha re-joined her pride and the earlier momentary lack of self-control was all but forgotten as the pride weaved their way further East along the Lusaka Road.
Leya (right); on the left Kwandi, Temi, Loma, Rusha, Kela and Zulu at the rear
Reaching the Sahara region of the site, a change in posture alerted us to something interesting further along the road. Switching off the vehicle’s engine so as to not interfere we couldn’t see what had suddenly become evident to them, but from Kela and Zulu’s posture – who we had the best view of – it was clear they weren’t merely admiring the scenery. With the recent rains, the vegetation has already started to thicken and we could see Kela and Zulu to our left about 40m away and Leya, Rusha and Temi about 100m ahead. We’d already lost visual of Kwandi and Loma and couldn’t move the vehicle without the possibility of disturbing any hunting effort.
So we watched as Leya rose into a crouch and glided off on a right flank and out of our sight. Temi and Rusha were only visible as their ears flicked in the grass. Still with no idea where our missing trio was, it took several minutes before Rusha rose and started stalking, with Temi trailing. Kela, who was about 80m behind them also made her way out on to the road. And then… it was all over as fast as it began; an impala warning snort sounded out and a couple of fleeing figures could be made out approximately 50m ahead of Rusha. Ten seconds later, we saw two lions in pursuit. With it clear that they weren’t giving up that easily and our presence would only be detrimental we decided to wish them luck and left them to it for the day.
Saturday 1st December and the pride was spread over about 100m near waterpan 3. The early signs that were evident of Rusha’s oestrus on Thursday were now a full-blown performance and the most likely reason for the pride’s more spread out position than usual. For whatever reason Rusha’s displaying and social attentions were 100% directed to the K sisters. We watched for several minutes as Rusha desperately tried to get Kela to notice her, but to no avail. Next it was Kwandi’s turn and as she rolled over and over again on the ground in front of her, our pride’s little bulldog was having none of it and chased Rusha 30m away.
All the fuss must have alerted Loma who had been resting with Zulu the better part of 100m away. Approaching the other females we heard her calling and this instantly got sister Leya up on her feet . Rather than going over to reassure her sibling, she stalked her and pounced on her instead. As the pair rough-housed, Loma finally broke free stopping to greet Temi and Kela before leading the pride East into Bwizu.
Zulu and Rusha
Bringing up the rear from a considerable distance was Zulu, but he made short work in catching up to Rusha. As he drew level, she immediately turned in a circle and crouched to the ground allowing Zulu to mate her. As soon as it was over, Rusha was off (no doubt wanting to catch up with Kela and Kwandi) like a shot leaving Zulu and us slightly lost for a couple of minutes as we tried to figure out where the girls had gone. It was several minutes before we both spotted them on the southern side of Bwizu close to the Lusaka Road.
Zulu searches Bwizu for the rest of the pride
By the 5th it was Temi’s turn to impress. The pride was hanging around the borders of Sahara and Tsavo, finishing off a scavenge we’d left there the previous day. With Zulu standing guard over the last remaining scraps and growling at every blade of grass to dare blow in his direction, the girls (who all looked to have fed) had no chance of sneaking back in for a few more mouthfuls. That was until later in the morning. When everyone else had fallen asleep and taken refuge under the trees for the day, Temi was still wide awake and biding her time. Waiting until Zulu had finally nodded off she dashed in to grab herself a small snack; her audacity was rewarded with a couple more KGs in her belly. But a furious and now wide awake Zulu placed himself squarely between her and any remains.
Temi gets the last laugh for once
After an almighty storm overnight we were able to get into the release site on the 6th, but couldn’t get very far as many of the roads had turned into rivers… Unfortunately this is going to become an increasingly common occurrence over the next few months as we wait out the rainy season.
Grand Canyon junction
Thankfully most of the water had either soaked or evaporated away sufficiently for us to track down the pride on the 7th to the Chisamu area. A storm was threatening close by but held out until the end of the afternoon which was good fortune for us as the pride was in fine form that afternoon. With the cool weather they marched into Sahara and across the road to Tsavo, stopping several times for mass greeting and grooming sessions. Usually Zulu’s right in there, but today he was notable by his distance. Whilst still keeping close tabs on the girls and responding to their moves, he kept a constant 50-100m distance from them. Eventually settling in the South-East of the site, the action began to die down, but as the afternoon wore on the rains finally broke – sending Rusha and Kwandi back into full mischief mode.
Rusha and Kwandi take advantage of the cool weather
Yesterday (10th) the pride once more were making their way through the site and towards the currently very popular Tsavo. The afternoon once more started off with a flurry of social interactions but fell into an alternation between rest and watching the skies as the thunder began to roll across the site.
Leya and Loma
It must have come at some point overnight as by the time we rolled up this morning to celebrate Zulu’s one year anniversary since release, it became very clear very quickly there was no way we were getting into the site today. Still, just before we turned around we could hear the pride roaring in the site, so it sounds like he’s having a pretty good day whatever they’re up to!