Rowing with the neighbours
April 12 2013

It was a noisy afternoon on the 6th April. Initially though it was a fairly frustrating scene with which we were confronted, as the pride was wedged in between the Western boundary fence line and a small thicket. Jamming the vehicle in at an awkward angle, we could just about get a view of most of the pride but it wasn’t easy viewing.

Just before we’d found them we’d heard them and the lions at the Dambwa enclosures roaring, and within minutes of our arrival we heard one or possibly two of the lions at the enclosures roaring. Almost instantly, our seven bolted upright and all began bellowing back in thunderous volumes. It seemed we’d found the reason for the pride’s sudden interest in the fence. With the pride only 20m from the vehicle we’d gotten a fair blast from this wall of sound.

Leya approaches the boundary while the rest of the pride roar

Although not a hard and fast rule, lions generally tend to roar after the hours of sunset and in the hours before sunrise. At a little after 15:30 it was certainly an odd time for such a chorus, but equally a delight to be there to witness it at such close quarters. As the final grunts emanated from the pride, Loma, Leya and Rusha who had all risen whilst roaring made their way back to the group and settled back in – cue plenty of head rubs and much back-slapping.

It was at this point that Leya zeroed in on Kela. Normally, Kela would be delighted with a little attention from her favourite half-sister but not today. Growling a warning, Kela stood and seemed about to look for another spot to rest when Leya gave her a small ankle tap. Kela span and bared her teeth before starting to move off which was when the reason for her defensiveness became clear. Unable to put much pressure on her back left leg she clearly had sustained a nasty sprain. Hobbling past the vehicle she took refuge about 30m from the rest of the group out of sight in the tall grass.

Barely 10 minutes passed when the undulating roar from the enclosures once more began to emit. Loma was on her feet in seconds responding and was joined by Rusha and Temi, but the rest of the group simply watched this time. Within minutes of everyone settling back down, another proclamation from the pride’s neighbours had everyone – Loma leading once more – hollering back. Even the still-out-of-sight Kela could be heard from behind us.

Loma led the 2nd and 3rd chorus of the afternoon

Leya

All this exertion finally overwhelmed the pride and the more usual mid-afternoon habit of resting won out. That was until a lone hooded vulture flew overhead and towards the Northern boundary of the site. Without missing a beat, Zulu and Temi were up and tracking its progress. The rest of the pride waited for the signal but while the vulture circled over the area it never dropped low enough to warrant any further interest from the lions.

On the 10th the lions were resting in Bwizu; only Rusha was in plain sight whilst the others could only be discerned as vague shapes slumped in the grass. With Rusha snoring next to a pile of offal from their most recent meal there was more activity to watch from the dung beetles and butterflies collecting around the remains than anything from the lions.

Later on however, things perked up a little. With Rusha having retreated to the shade, Kela (now minus her limp from the other day) and Leya decided to take a stab at the now rather potent-smelling remains; only to have a puffed up Zulu hot on their heels. Before they’d even had a chance to check out what was still on offer Zulu was chasing them off. Not that he actually had room for anything more – belly bulging he slumped in a heap next to the remains, clearly unable to eat more but not wanting anyone else to get at it either.

Kwandi greets Zulu... and doesn't quite get the reception she was looking for

Kwandi was his next victim, who unfortunately took him by surprise and came in from behind for a head rub… Not a good idea.  Whether startled or still in possessive mood, or a combination of both, he flew in a rage at her. Clearly having seen the reception the others had received, Temi made her way past him to get to Waterpan 2 by giving him a very wide arc, and thereby sneaking past unscathed.

Who knows what favours Loma’s been doing for Zulu lately, but she was allowed to sniff around the margins of the carcass site and sit about 10m away from him. For around 15 minutes we wondered why she was receiving such special treatment – even though she hadn’t dared approach the rotting left-overs yet – when Zulu suddenly seemed to remember himself and chased her away too.

Loma beats a retreat

With the unwanted scraps safe, Zulu still didn’t eat them but instead spent the rest of the afternoon indulging in a favoured past time; vulture watching. No doubt waiting for one to try its luck and give it some of the same treatment as his ladies!

Watching and waiting for his next victim?

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