Matusadona Lion Project: Week 31 & 32
November 6 2015

Lost and Found

This blog is the ongoing diary of Matusadona Lion Project Principal Researcher, Rae Kokes:

A sighting of the Kanjedza Pride on the 20th of October showed the young male cub M118, “Siwela”, had been separated from the lionesses. Spoor for the small pride during the following days indicated he had not re-joined them at any time.  Had he also fallen to predation as presumed to be the fate of sister F123, “Masibanda”?

MLP 4

The Kanjedza Pride have been moving further West, following the upper reaches of the Jenje and Mukadzapela rivers. These are areas of the Park they have not been noted to roam before. The same can be said for the Eastern Pride who were observed moving into the Chura and Shenga rivers, areas normally frequented by the Tashinga Pride. What has caused this momentary shift in territory use? Data from fitted satellite GPS collars on the location of each pride does not indicate avoidance behaviour of one another.  Perhaps evidence lies with the falling lake levels (yes, they’re still dropping!) and changes in prey densities. Large areas of exposed lakeshore have given rise to emerald green lawns grasses that are attracting large herds of impala, rarely seen zebra, and elephants. Tracking collars have been deployed for under a year on pride members, and it is hoped that trends in habitat and territory use both temporally and seasonally will become more apparent as this study continues.

MLP 1

On the 24th the Kanjedza Pride were sighted in the Kanjedza river area, deep in the mopane scrub. The females were taking rest in the shade having given a failed chase to some impala along the lakeshore. To my complete surprise young “Siwela” emerged from the undergrowth, leading the way for his little sister “Masibanda”. Having not been sighted with the pride for over a month I had presumed Masibanda had died, and more recently Siwela’s fate was also of concern. At c. 7 months old cubs are more often than not with adult pride members, and for only one cub to go missing from a litter it was reasonable to presume the worst.  However, this sighting proves assumptions for wild animals are often met with surprises; very joyful ones in this case. Both cubs scored a low body condition and mother F115, “Kanjedza” also showed she too has not fed substantially in recent days.

MLP 2

On the 26th the Eastern Pride were located along the lakeshore of the Bumi East bay area. The 4 male cubs are now c. 9 months old, and all are maintaining high body conditions which is a good indication that the Eastern Pride are sourcing adequate prey. It appeared the pride had made a substantial kill around the 27th as all were sporting larger than life bellies whilst waddling to a small spring-line to drink. By the morning of the 28th the pride were in the same location and I was fortunate enough to witness a huge game of chase amongst the 3 lionesses, leaving the 4 cubs with some rather amusing bewildered expressions. Mothers F105, “Sanyati”, F109, “Matusadona” and aunt F107, “Elizabeth", leapt and bounded over the sleepy little males, kicking up sand and splashing cool spring water around the cubs.

MLP 3

There have been no further reports of the Tashinga Pride sub-adult males M111 and M112.  However, the ever vigilant guides from Bumi Hills Safari Lodge and Musango Safari Camp are keeping a close eye out.  Plans are still underway to attempt to collar these 2 males next year. The movements of nomadic animals help to determine important areas offering genetic exchange between populations and can also highlight areas that may require improved management to maintain desirable habitat quality. Young males are also likely to range into areas with human settlements with the potential to be the cause of human-wildlife conflict by predating on livestock. Reports were received last month of a lone male lion killing donkeys in the Makande area surrounding the Gache Gache area. It is thought this lone male could be the long-missing M102, “Madiba”. No further reports have been received from here, however an assessment is being made shortly and hopes are still high that we can locate and collar ‘Madiba’ at a later date.

About the Matusadona Lion Project (MLP)

Since its commencement in 2014, the MLP, in partnership with the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, aims to determine the population status and ecology of lions in Zimbabwe’s Matusadona National Park. The last census in 2005 suggested that just 28 individuals remained, down from nearly 90 in 1998, raising concerns over the population’s long-term viability.  The MLP is collecting data on individual lions, pride structure and distribution, as well trying to understand the environmental and human-induced pressures facing Matusadona’s lions. This project directly contributes to the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority’s conservation and management plans for this apex predator. 

Support the Matusadona Lion Project

MLP is looking for funding to cover the running costs of the project (such as vehicle repair and fuel) as well as to acquire additional equipment (camera traps and tracking collars) to increase the amount of data being collected.  If you are able to help please make a donation here, or contact info@lionalert.org for alternative support options.

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