Undercover
October 22 2012

Late on the 19th October a much anticipated event took place in Dambwa (and the rest of the region no doubt) when rainy season opened in spectacular fashion overnight soaking the tinder dry release site and bringing with it some cooler weather over the weekend. Despite the respite in heat and humidity the lions didn’t seem to have noticed and we found them on an overcast afternoon of the 20th resting on the road between Kulibe and Chisamu in the far East of the site.

Leya and Rusha provide a road block, Temi sitting up at the back

Having obliterated the scavenge that had been hidden in this area of the site for them to find earlier that morning, the lions had clearly been active at some point over the day having tracked vultures the entire length of the release site from their morning’s location near waterpan 1. But having spent the day filling their stomachs all that was left when we arrived was the sight of Rusha, Leya and Temi sprawled across the road. Zulu’s mane could be seen wobbling around in the bushes to our left and the grinding of teeth on bone on either side of the road gave us a little clue as to Kela, Kwandi and Loma’s whereabouts.

An all-too brief sighting of Kwandi

Leya pretty much saved the day. As Rusha went off to join the others in picking over the scraps and Loma appeared only to flop back down and disappear, taking Temi with her, Leya remained the only lion visible for the entire afternoon, and while she wasn’t exactly hyper-active it was a relief to just see something.

Leya

The following morning (22nd) and the weather was still refreshingly cool. The pride had made a mammoth effort overnight and made their way approximately 400m north into the site and into their favourite spot in Sahara. Unfortunately their favourite spot in Sahara is an approximately 80m-wide circular thicket with a clearing in the middle.

Loma (front) and Leya (back)

As frustrating as it can sometimes be, part of the charm of Dambwa is that there are numerous places the lions can go that we can’t. And this is one such spot, but they were at least considerate enough to plonk themselves more or less in front of the only break in cover. By mid-morning the sun was finally starting to burn through the cloud cover… and if they’d been in lazy form over the cooler 36-odd hours, the sun’s returning rays now sent them one by one into the thick cover around the edges of the clearing.

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