Sleepless in Dambwa
On the 2nd of October it seemed to be one of those days that could be a lazy one. The lions were in Kariba lounging under a couple of trees; squeezing into any possible shade available. The lions were asleep when the research team came into the release site in the morning, however, a few minutes later the team noticed one of the sub-adults was missing. They scanned the area with binoculars and there she was; RS3 looking very interested at something in the distance. The team continued to scan further, and noticed a herd of 16 impala approximately 100 meters away from the vigilant young lion, munching away on the brown grass and unaware that they were being watched. The team continued to write notes of the young lioness’s attempt at stalking for many minutes; forty-five minutes to be exact. The team watched as the ambitious RS3 crept closer and closer to her target. She moved with a precise, direct approach, pausing every so often, but then she finally laid down next to a tree that was offering shade and cover from the prey. She waited some more until she seemed to realize that none of her pride mates were assisting, or even interested in her activity. She looked back at her comrades who were sound asleep, but after one last look at the impala she decided to give up and retire next to her family members – but not before greeting every one of them that she passed, as if she were telling them of her brief adventure.
The research team left the lions to their slumber, and returned after breakfast to find them in the same area but slightly shifted positions. The team continued their observations and notes when they heard some scratching. The team looked up and saw LE3 pawing the bark of the tree he was lying next to. He was the only one awake among the sleeping pride. Soon enough his amusing object play roused his sister, LE2, who slowly crawled between the trees to see what her brother was up to. She watched him for a few minutes and decided she wanted to join, if not take over. She started to chew on another piece of bark that was peeling off the trunk. While her brother stopped to watch her intently she chewed and pawed the trunk and eventually succeeded in pulling the bark off. LE3 decided he wanted to join in again and continued with his previous piece of bark. Chewing pieces off here and there and shaking them as if it were meat.
This activity in the searing heat continued for some time, until there was a rustle behind the two young ones. They sprang to their feet, ears forward, and poised for action. Whatever it was the research team did not see as it was too small and too fast to get a good look. The two sub-adults however jumped and pounced and ran around the tree trying to capture this tiny creature. In the process they woke up their older half-brother, RS2, who did not seem pleased or amused at being disturbed. The two leaped on him anyway as the creature tried to escape under him! RS2 scrambled up to watch his younger siblings but quickly became uninterested and moved to another tree where his mother was sound asleep. Soon, the tiny creature zoomed passed and around the tree, where the research team saw that it was lizard. Once the lizard escaped into an old termite mound, the two sub-adults waited, tails flicking high up in the air. As they realized their game was over, they too followed their older sibling to the tree where the adults were resting, who were unaware of the brief excitement.
About the Dambwa Lion Release Site
The 6 adults (1 male and 5 females) of the ‘Dambwa Pride’ were captive born and released into the ‘Dambwa Lion Release Site’ in 2011, having been walked in the rehabilitation phase of the ex situ conservation project, the African Rehabilitation and Release into the Wild Programme. The pride’s 6 offspring (3 male and 3 females) were born in the site and have had no human contact, display natural behaviours, and are intended for release into the wild in the final phase of the Programme.
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