Matusadona Lion Project: Week Four & Five
April 1 2015

On March 16th, I finally tracked down the Eastern Pride lionesses, including lioness F105 (Sanyati). She was last sighted in the vicinity of the Kanjedza Pride where I suspect she may have been hiding a litter of cubs. I have been desperately trying to track her movements between this area and that of the rest of the small pride. She was still showing signs of suckling, as were her pride members F107 (Elizabeth) and F109 (Matusadona). I had presumed that these 2 were also pregnant after signs became apparent; the fact that quite often after a pride takeover and subsequent matings, lionesses will give birth within one month of one another supported my suspicions. However, there is still a likelihood of Sanyati’s pride mates simply providing a helping hand to her and her litter. Lactating lionesses are known to suckle cubs of other lionesses in their pride and, by sharing such ‘costs’ amongst one another, cub survival rates can improve.

On the 18th, I took full advantage of the newly opened lakeshore and headed to the mouth of the Nyamuni River which until now has always been inaccessible by car. Here I located Kanjedza pride lioness F101 (Ivory) alongside pride males M110 (Mukadza) and M108 (Toulouse). Shortly after this sighting, the trio headed to the escarpment area where I suspect a substantial kill was made during my absence.

Once I returned to the park and was en route to Rhino Safari Camp, I had a brief run-in with the 2 male cheetahs. I have also had reports of sightings of the lone female cheetah much to my relief, as it had been quite some time since she was sighted and given her suspected old age, I was concerned the last female cheetah of Matusadona had passed!

By the 27th, I was still in pursuit of the Eastern pride in hopes of catching a glimpse of cubs, yet instead I came across an injured young elephant. This particular elephant had been reported the previous week but soon disappeared before any assessment could be made. He was in obvious discomfort - limping on his hind left leg which had swollen an enormous amount around the ankle and was oozing puss. Although many animals will naturally incur and succumb to injuries in the wild, the constant threat of poaching activity in this area means some injuries are likely to be human-induced, such as bullet wounds. Unable to determine if this wound was, in fact, natural or of human cause, a team was quickly rallied to dart the young male and see what could be done.

The small herd he was a part of put on a heart-warming displaying of protection once he had been darted and what was presumably his mother was not prepared to leave his side. In the interests of her safety, that of her calf as well as those involved, she was also darted. Once the large cow was unconscious and monitored safely, we took to the young elephant. His ankle was checked for any sign of metal with a metal detector and showed nothing. He had a series of small wounds all around the ankle that had ballooned with swelling. Pressure was relieved with the removal of puss, and disinfectant along with antibiotics was administered. The general consensus was that he had suffered a compound break/fracture, but the nature of how was still a mystery. Being a younger animal, about 6-8years old, it is hoped he may well recover from this if he can maintain a good condition.

After treatment, he and then his mother were given a reversal drug and brought to. They quickly joined together and headed into the Jesse bush to find the rest of their herd. A close eye will be kept on him where possible to monitor his progress, and hopes are the elephant-slaying Jenje Boys keep away!

A huge thank you to the following for attending to the injured elephant and working so professionally, quickly and efficiently: Andries Scholtz, Mark Brightman  - Bumi Hills Anti Poaching, Kevin Higgins - Changa Safari Camp, Levi Young - Rhino Safari Camp, Henry Macilwane - Matusadona Anti Poaching Project, Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority.


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