After all the excitement of the other afternoon bird hunting with the pride, it was a slightly more sedate affair first thing this morning (17th) in the Dambwa site. Although not for long…
Late yesterday afternoon a scavenge was left in the site for the lions to discover. Usually when we leave these opportunities for the pride they’re left at the end of the day, the lions find it during their nightly patrols and it’s gone by the time we return. Entering the site this morning it was our first port of call and, surprisingly, it was still there, untouched… With the freezing temperatures overnight and early morning, the meat – despite having been out in the open for well over 12 hours - hadn’t even started smelling yet; even the vultures hadn’t clocked onto the free meal that was available.
Frustratingly we found the pride no more than 400m from where the scavenge had been dropped, completely oblivious to the goodies waiting nearby. There was no sign of the Secretary Bird either to rouse the pride today so we spent the morning with them as they warmed themselves after a chilling night. The long sleep was only punctuated by a brief bout of grooming between Loma and Rusha and a few head rubs as Loma repositioned herself amongst the huddle of lions.
Leya, Loma & Rusha
After breakfast we carried out a game count, and it was clear from the fresh tracks over many of the site’s roads that the pride had been on patrol last night – but had completely neglected the area in which the scavenge had been left. However, by this point it was late morning and temperatures were starting to climb considerably… and if there’s one thing our boy Zulu knows how to do, it’s keep an eye on vultures!
As we completed the game count and made our way back to the pride’s earlier location a column of white-backed and hooded vultures was building above the scavenge site. Rounding the final corner from the Sanga boundary we arrived just as Zulu was rising to his feet, eyes fixed on the crowding vultures… and he was off, a split second later the girls were trailing in his wake.
(L-R) Loma, Kela, Leya, Rusha, Kwandi, Temi
Straight as an arrow the pride zeroed in on the spot and began tearing into the freebie. As it’s such a rare occurrence to see the pride feeding, from start to finish and un-obscured, it was a great chance to watch the dynamics of the seven around a meal. The initial scrap was a vicious affair, but soon things calmed down as everyone found a space and the sounds of gnawing and grinding of teeth filled the air. Not long into the feed, Temi bolted 20m away with a piece she’d managed to claim. This is something we have seen Temi do before – most likely as the smallest and slightest lion she’s at risk from losing out to larger bullies and has learnt to grab and run. Settling herself under a bush with her chunk of meat she remained – untroubled – for the rest of the morning, and the only indication she was still in the area was the slight wobbling of the tall grass around her as she filled her boots.
Loma is probably the most peaceable lion in the pride; a strong associate to everyone and one of the main social networkers in the group. But food clearly has a bad influence on her mood and she fought first with her sister, Leya, then Kwandi (who she got a considerable spanking from) before finally trying to muscle in on Kela.
Surprisingly Zulu ate in relative peace, having immediately claimed a large portion for himself presumably the girls knew to leave well alone and it was only when he finished after an hour and made his way over to clean his paws close to Rusha and Leya that we saw him get involved in an altercation. Getting a little too close for Rusha’s liking, she let out a thunderous warning growl before lunging at him. What was most surprising was that not only did Zulu back off – but he even rolled onto his side in submission.
There’s no doubt who rules the pride now!