The scavenger gets scavenged
April 6 2013

It’s becoming difficult to remember what the Dambwa pride actually look like these days as the grass continues its relentless take over of the site. A common view of the pride these days is something a bit like this...

Resting in Sahara

The 26th March showed not only that we're having trouble keeping track of the lions in the grass, but the lions themselves are actually struggling to keep tabs on one another. After a fairly substantial search that afternoon of the Kariba area we finally came across (more by accident than anything else) a lone Kela - a rare enough event in itself – who seemed equally lost. Deciding we probably would have more luck in finding the others if we stuck with her it quickly became apparent she had no idea where her pride were. As she sat 10m away she called on-and-off for the next 30 minutes before heading West and before turning North and then South. After plenty more calling she finally came across Zulu and the two loners paired up and settled under the shade of a tree.

Kela makes her way through Kariba on the search for her pride

As they rested, we kept an eye on the other five females’ signals which were gradually increasing in strength. It seemed all of Kela’s vocalising had pulled her pride mates out of which ever holes they were hiding in. But unbelievable despite walking within 20m of Kela and Zulu, the other group led by Loma and Leya completely bypassed the pair; unable to see them they kept on walking. But Kela hadn’t spent the afternoon bellowing her lungs out for nothing and even though they’d missed her she’d certainly seen them and called out again to let them know where she was.

Loma and Leya struggle to find Kela

Kela, Loma, Rusha & Temi reunited

By the 31st they were on the borders of Chisamu and Sahara, with a fairly visible Zulu, Temi and Loma on the Chisamu side of the road and an utterly concealed Kela, Kwandi, Leya and Rusha on the Sahara side. It only took a matter of minutes for Temi and Loma to decide to cross over and join their sisters and vanishing from view for the rest of the day.

Zulu was the only decent sighting of the 31st

It wasn’t until the 5th April that we were able to get a good look at them again. Initially they were holed up in Bwizu, close to Waterpan 2. When Temi rose a few minutes later and began to walk into the bank of trees immediately to the pride’s East, the first thought was she was likely seeking shade and was about to disappear into the dense cover for the rest of the day. But after checking her collar’s signal over the next several minutes it seemed she had kept on going the other side. While several of the other females watched her departure intently, no one else followed – so we decided to.

Temi

With half an idea that she was likely heading to the pride’s most recent scavenge site on the south-east corner of Bwizu we made a beeline for this spot. Whilst waiting for her to arrive it was a surprise to discovered a dead white-backed vulture. Likely, this unfortunate had been feeding from the scavenge when the pride found it and wasn’t fast enough in getting away. But now, with the scavenge finished Temi seemed to be giving some consideration to snacking on the discarded vulture. But after a little contemplation decided against it and began calling softly instead – whether to her pride or the vulture, who knows?

With an already rather full looking belly she padded her way back across towards pan 2. Knowing we wouldn’t be able to see her there we decided to go straight back to the pride’s original location and wait for her to re-join them there. But of course the other six had completely vanished when we got back there. The most likely scenario being that Temi’s calling had attracted their attention and they were on their way over to the spot we’d just left. With Temi still drinking at the water pan we drove straight back from where we came to find the six dotted about sniffing over the scraps. Leya was paying the vulture a bit of attention this time, and also decided to call to it as Temi had done earlier…

Leya investigates the vulture

It wasn’t much longer before Temi arrived back on the scene – perhaps having heard Leya – and finally everyone was back together again. But gradually as the afternoon progressed, one by one they slipped into the tall grass to find shade under their own private bushes until near the end of the afternoon Zulu this time marched over to inspect the vulture. Picking it up in his mouth he gave it a good shake before dropping it again. First calling softly to the vulture he then marched several metres away and started calling at full volume before heading back to the shade and disappearing out of sight.

Zulu grabs hold of the vulture carcass

Surveying Bwizu

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