An early seasonal fire entered the release site on the 14th April. With the grass still being relatively green from the rains earlier in the year it was slow burning and easily controllable and only affected a small portion of the Western edges of the site. During that afternoon the lions were spotted close by in the next section of the site. Like most animals they have a natural avoidance of smoke and fire and were never in any danger but certainly seemed curious as to all the fuss and activity!
The following afternoon we went into the site to assess the damage and to find out what – if any – affect it had had on the lions. The answer would be none as they plonked themselves in the scorched section under one of their favourite trees in Kariba. But this is an area of the site they have been favouring a lot recently anyway. While they seemed totally oblivious to the changes it had actually worked to our advantage; with the tall grass burnt away we had a better view of them than we’d had in many months! With the new landscape to explore, the lions remained here for the next few days sporting several scorched and charred looks.
A chargrilled Loma in the burnt area of the site
The 24th saw them move further East into the site having followed the vultures to a scavenge which had left in the site earlier that day. For once the feeding was a relatively calm affair with few fights and even Zulu leaving the carcass with well over half remaining, allowing the girls to feed for the rest of the afternoon.
The pride feeding
Zulu leaves the party early
On the morning of the 5th May all the pride was slumped around water pan 2. Despite his generosity the previous week, Zulu was now in no mood for sharing anything, including his space. Having found a prime spot close to the water and with good shade over the course of the morning loud warning growls could be heard coming from him each time one of the females came to drink.
Rusha tackles Zulu
But Zulu’s moods don’t seem to intimidate Rusha perhaps as much as they should and instead of being frightened off she boldly sauntered up to him and engaged him in a brief bout of play. Following Rusha's lead, Kwandi decided to test Zulu’s temper and was able to give him a quick slap around the chops before she engaged in a long grooming session with Loma and Leya.
Kwandi takes a playfuly swipe at Zulu
Kwandi (back), Leya (standing) and Loma (front) engage in a long greeting and grooming session
The following afternoon and the pride was on the move, with Zulu trailing a good 100m or so behind the rest of the pride. With apparently no particular destination in mind they wove along the Lusaka Road and finally came to rest in Sahara. It wasn't a very exciting or dramatic afternoon, but was nice to see them on the move.
(From front): Kela, Kwandi, Temi, Loma, Rusha and Leya
On the 9th we found them moving once more, but this time with a great deal of purpose. Their signals led us close to water pan 3 when we finally spotted them racing along the northern treeline, suddenly coming to a halt. There are very few reasons lions will exert such energy during such a hot part of the day, and the withering look thrown our way by Temi suggested our lumbering vehicle had quite successfully ruined a hunt. Having caused such an intrusion we meekly fell into line as the pride then made their way to water pan 2 before heading towards the centre of the site.
The lions re-group after the hunt
We weren’t sure where the lions were heading, and apparently neither were they as they continued their way East we presumed they were on the lookout for more game to pick up the hunt on. But once reaching the border of Tsavo they stopped and Zulu turned and seemed to suddenly become very interested in something behind them. We couldn’t see what he was looking at but he was totally focussed on something and the procession was soon marching across Sahara.
Zulu turns the pride around
The rest of the afternoon was spent trying to keep up with them through the tall grasses and potholed terrain of the area. Having finally reached the point where we could no longer follow them we doubled back and drove around the entire section to meet up with them again close to pan 2. As the afternoon drew to a close and the lions began slipping back into the northern boundary close to where we’d originally found them, we decided this time to bow out and let them hopefully continue the hunt from earlier.