On the 3rd of June we caught up with the pride still polishing off the zebra kills in the Kruger and Tree Tops area and moving back and forth to water hole 3. Water hole 3 in the release site is in sight of the fence line and it was here we saw a glimpse of what it means to be a truly wild lion.
Like any private game reserve or protected area we conduct patrols to check for snares that may have been laid and any disturbance to any fencing. On the morning of the 3rd one member of staff was carrying out checks near the northern fence line near water hole 3. Phyre and Kwali heard the footsteps and watched briefly before losing interest and returning to sleep. However AT1, who was also present, also heard the footsteps and once she saw this unusual, upright animal, fled instantly. The guard was advised to walk out of sight from the lions yet the brief disturbance highlighted AT1’s natural human avoidance behaviours, which have developed just the same as any cubs born wild. Wherever possible we ensure that the Ngamo pride do not see people on foot to avoid the cubs becoming used to people.
Studies upon wild lions have shown in areas where lions and people live alongside one another due to the ever-increasing human population in Africa, lions will try to avoid people at all costs. Research has also shown when wild prides are forced to pass through or close to human settlements lions will move at a much faster pace and displaying stress related behaviours.
On the 4th we saw AT1 put her herding skills to test as she rounded up a large impala herd in the thicket of the Amboseli area. AT1 trotted back and forth flickering her tail gleefully during the game and occasionally launching onto Narnia’s back to add to the fun.
On the 6th we found a very playful group of lionesses and cubs moving between the valley and Tree Tops areas. We eventually followed Kenge into the tall grass of the valley and to no real surprise found the latest zebra kill. AS4 indulged herself with a knee joint whilst Milo caught some winks and rays upon his back.
Later in the day we followed the females and cubs to water hole 3 and began to notice some strange behaviour on Kenge’s part. AT1 was as ever the playtime instigator with her younger pride mates but Kenge, although in a playful mood herself, did not care for AT1’s antics.
As AT1 approached Kenge for what appeared to be an affectionate head rub Kenge attacked AT1 around the neck. The scuffle was over in seconds and AT1, appearing non-the-worse, continued to play around the water hole. Yet seemingly still unimpressed with AT1 Kenge attacked AT1 upon her rump. AT1 cried out in shock and quickly fled. The other lionesses rose at the commotion and watched as AT1 slunk off to sit alone.
Although this aggression is a tad confusing our researcher believes Kenge is perhaps beginning to ‘test’ AT1 and force her to earn her place amongst the female dominance system. This system is never static amongst lionesses however there is more than often more dominant members than others and AT1 is now reaching an age where she will have to start earning her place as an Ngamo adult.