The heavy rains that took hold over most of January and early February finally let up for long enough to allow the roads in the Dambwa release site to dry out over the last week or two. And it’s a release site transformed. After last year’s rainy season, we knew what was coming but still it was a surprise to see the towering grass that dominates the site at this time of year – in about 80% of the site it easily reaches 8-10ft. When looking for animals as lazy as lions, even with the help of the telemetry from their collars, the extreme cover is making locating and observing the pride something of a challenge to say the least.
Still, we’re not complaining – at least we have access to the site again!
The 26th found the pride well-hidden just off the Lusaka Road in the Sahara section of the site. We’d dropped them a scavenge here the previous afternoon and it appeared they’d tracked it down that morning. All the girls except Kela were dotted throughout the large thicket, while Zulu guarded whatever was left; huffing and growling at the slightest twitch of a leaf.
Kela meanwhile was a couple of hundred metres away in another thicket. But she was being kept company by a herd of about five impala. Unfortunately for Kela, while she was well concealed this particular thicket has a large clearing about 50x30m in the middle of it – to get to the impala, she’d need to cross the clearing (or risk making noise moving through the grass and bushes). We watched for several minutes as numerous times she flattened her ears against her head and her body against the ground – clearly itching to pounce. But there was no way she could get to them without blowing her cover. Luckily, her dilemma on what course of action to take was decided for her when Leya, Loma, Rusha and Kwandi turned up making a heck of racket and scaring the impala away. Problem sorted. Kela vocalised several times as she walked over to them – whether it was in reprimand or greeting only she knows.
Minutes after their arrival, Kela headed towards Zulu and Temi at the scavenge site, while Kwandi led the others onwards to a natural water hole created by the rains. As the four girls drank it was soon clear that the grass had concealed Kela, Temi and Zulu’s arrival as we suddenly had seven lions around the pan. As Zulu came down to drink, the girls one by one slipped away – with the remains of the scavenge unguarded they literally ran the 200-odd metres back. But Zulu was savvy to their plans – and as soon as he’d taken on enough water bolted back and chased them all away taking up his sentry post again.
Leya and Loma head off as Zulu arrives to drink
By the following morning they’d all shifted further West towards the Grand Canyon, and were resting in Kariba. It was a quiet morning, but at least they’d picked somewhere to sleep the day away where the grass was a little shorter.
The pride relax in the early morning sun
A bateleur eagle inspects the pride's location
Friday (1st) and the pride was dotted around the border of Tsavo and Sahara and were being watched by a Bateleur eagle for most of the morning. It was an incredible hot morning and unsurprisingly most of it passed in mostly inactive form. That was until midday when Zulu came over to scent mark the tree Leya, Loma and Kwandi were sleeping under (scent marking Loma in the process) which set off a flurry of social activity – and with the four of them on their feet, afforded us the only decent sighting of them all day!
Zulu scent marks - waking Leya, Loma and Kwandi
Kwandi greets Zulu