Is Zulu losing his touch?
August 11 2012

Zulu leading the girls

Zulu leading the girls

It’s been nothing if not lively in Dambwa this week. On the  7th, the pride was resting early in the morning under one of their favourite trees in the West of the site. Over the last few months, the lions have become pretty adept at distinguishing when a vulture is just inspecting the area and when their behaviour signals there’s something of interest on the ground. So knowing that there were no scavenges waiting to be discovered that day, it was a bit of a surprise when Zulu got it so wrong as two hooded vultures – who were flying north in no particular hurry – soared over them. Leading his pride off on a march in the same direction as the vultures, it was a good 10 minutes later with - no sign of the vultures anywhere – and no interesting scents of the breeze that it started to dawn on him he may have got it wrong… To save face, after a quick drink from pan 3 he then led the pride into the Acacia boundary where no one would see his blushes.

Dambwa pride at waterhole 3

Dambwa pride at waterhole 3

To test whether Zulu was losing his touch, we put a scavenge in the site at the end of the day on the 7th. The next morning, with winter having made a dramatic and sudden return it was no surprise to find the meat still there. Frozen… And the lions apparently had passed up their evening patrol in lieu of huddling together to gain every last bit of warmth from each other. When we found them on the 8th you couldn’t have squeezed a sheet of paper between them. And once the sun was up and everyone started thawing out it didn’t take long at all before two hooded vultures began thermaling high above the site. 

Leya (front), Loma, Temi & Rusha (rear)

Leya (front), Loma, Temi & Rusha (rear)

As the lions slept we watched the birds to see how long it took between them finding the hidden meal and the lions clocking on. As they narrowed in on the area the lions remained oblivious. But Temi saved the day. As the original two vultures lowered several more seemed to clock on; the beat of their wings waking her. Watching one, then a second and then a third shoot past her, she rose – instantly waking Zulu; and the game was over. Having only just found the meat themselves, the vultures were then beaten back into the trees as the lions bore down on them. Even if Zulu is losing his sixth-vulture sense, it would seem that Temi’s more than ready to pick up the baton.

Temi

Temi

Yesterday (10th) and there seemed to be something rather pressing for Leya to deal with. The morning started off much the same as any other, with seven lions warming themselves in the early morning sun. Roughly 40 minutes after our arrival, Leya stood and began making her way North; all eyes were on her as she strode 30m from the pride. First scenting, she began calling loudly to her pride mates and was almost instantly replied by sister Loma who shot to her feet along with Kwandi and the trio headed up the move.

Leya

Leya

As always, Kela spent a little time longer assessing the situation before deciding she too ought to join in; which means we had to wait for Kela before we could tag ourselves on the end of the line. Thanks to Kela and being someway behind the others we missed what happened next but as we watched her plod along the road we could hear the others bellowing en-masse and only just made it to the scene as the last few moans were being vocalised; and just in time to see Zulu jump on Leya’s back and get a big fat slap in the face for his over-exuberance. After a moment to re-group (and a moment, not surprisingly for Kela to take the opportunity to sit back down in the middle of the road) the move continued to the Northern boundary of the site.

Temi (front), Rusha, Loma & Kwandi (2nd row), Leya, Zulu, Kela (back)

Temi (front), Rusha, Loma & Kwandi (2nd row), Leya, Zulu, Kela (back)

Making their way West later on in the morning we lost visual on them for several minutes as they entered an area of the site covered in tall grass. Having a good idea of where they were headed however we bypassed the area and waited next to one of their favoured spots in this section of the site. Confirmation that they were en-route came when a loud growl could be heard over the other side of the thicket from which we were parked and Rusha, followed by Leya, Kela, Temi, Loma, Zulu and eventually Kwandi ambled into view. The reason for the loud growl soon became apparent as Zulu sat down and dropped from his mouth an old impala horn, which he must have found along the move. As he began chewing and pawing at it, Kwandi came over to take a look and was swiftly put back in her place. Leya tried her luck next but she too met with a firm rebuff. For close to 20 minutes Zulu chewed on his new toy until eventually curiosity just became too much for Leya, Loma and Rusha and the swarmed around him. Graciously he allowed them a few minutes’ investigation before growling a warning that they were getting a bit too close.

Zulu (above), Leya, Loma, Rusha, Zulu (below)

Zulu

Leya, Loma, Rusha, Zulu

Finally growing tired of it, as Zulu discarded the now chewed and mangled horn, Leya was in like a shot. Having waited the better part of 30 minutes to get her paws on it she left it after barely a few minutes only for Loma to grab it and chew up what was left. This passing of toy from lion to lion seemed to then give rise to a flurry of greeting and allo-grooming.

Loma

Loma

But all thoughts of niceties and toys was soon forgotten as in the midday sun Kwandi made a move East; Zulu was instantly on his feet observing her for a few seconds before the rest of the pride also began to follow. Once more the Dambwa train was off.

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