We were able to follow the tracks straight to the lions’ location in Tsavo on Sunday (17th) morning. Entering through Muhila’s gate in the West of the site, the telemetry confirmed they had finally left Kariba and indeed the entire western side of the site. Kariba’s been a regular haunt for the pride since January, when “Hero” was placed in the breeding program to the West of the site. While the pride seems to have grown used to his presence they clearly don’t trust him to stay out of their territory. But this morning there wasn’t even the faintest blip for any of their signals in this area, nor in Grand Canyon. But the spoor heading East along the Lusaka Road acted like a trail of breadcrumbs and on this crisp winter’s morning we found them on the border of Tsavo in the East puffed up against the cold and huddled around a tree. All except Kwandi who was about 15m from the group keeping an eye out to the South.
(L-R) Kela, Leya, Temi, Zulu, Rusha
It wasn’t too long though before she edged into the group, wedging herself between Zulu and Rusha for warmth. Initially, it looked as though we were in for a relatively peaceful morning as once everyone had shifted round to accommodate the extra body, seven sleepy heads disappeared below the burnt wisps of grass. But looks can be deceptive, and something to the North stirred them and almost simultaneously everyone titled their noses skywards.
(L-R) Kela, Leya, Loma, Temi Zulu
Despite the source of their interest apparently being to the North, Rusha began moving East closely covered by Zulu and swiftly followed by everyone else.
Zulu & Rusha
Rusha scratching a tree
And so the procession began; marching through Chisamu and only stopping for a quick scratch on a favourted post. Zulu and Rusha remained at the helm, guiding the pride through the area – and into a portion of Chisamu which is to all intents and purposes inaccessible by vehicle. As we headed back out onto the Lusaka Road to hopefully meet up with them when they emerged onto the Garden Route, Zulu hung back watching us – apparently suspicious of where we were off to.
So he must have been relieved that we weren’t up to something tricksy when we all met up again a few minutes later as they moved through Chobe. Leya came in for a bit of a beating as Rusha chased her through the treeline, pouncing and wrestling her to the floor. But that was nothing compared to what Kwandi had to endure. At first it looked like a lovely scene as Zulu scaled a dead tree and posed proudly as the females passed below… that was until Kwandi was walking past and he launched himself from the branch and dropped onto her. Face-planting into the ground, she fought her way out from under him, her face now a patchwork of fur and soot, struggled to regain her composure and on shaky legs re-joined the pride.
(from back) Temi, Kwandi, Kela, Loma, Leya, Rusha, Zulu
This impish behaviour soon died down and the group fanned out and swept through Sibaka. But it was obvious where we were heading – back to Kariba. And once the pride had picked one of their favoured spots, a wall of lions kept watch to the West for any signs of a would-be intruder.