There are many things that can be called foul in this world, and perhaps vying for the top spot would be the pungent aroma which emanates from lions which have recently eaten. Judging by the stench that was lingering in the air around the area in which the Dambwa pride congregated on the afternoon of the 20th, they’d eaten really rather well recently.
We’d entered the site via North Gate located in the Acacia boundary that afternoon, and on our way to this gate we caught a quick glimpse of Kela, Leya, Zulu and Temi resting close to Muhila’s gate. Passing by the waterpans on our way back to Muhila’s once inside the site, a rather rotten smell started to permeate the air as we approached pan 1. Suddenly there was a grim-smelling Loma, wallowing in her stench, in a bush next to the waterpan, Temi stinkily drifted into view a few metres down and within seconds Kela and Rusha rose up like a bad smell out of the riverbed to join Loma. Kwandi’s signal was emitting strongly from the area too but we couldn’t smell – sorry, see - her. Not long after, we spotted Zulu wafting along the road towards our and the girls’ location. After disappearing through the grass and into the pan he reappeared and settled down.
By now, the only rotter missing was Leya. We could detect a weak signal for her but were certain she wasn’t hiding with the others in the immediate vicinity. Going out on a limb, we decided to head towards Muhila’s gate where we’d seen the foursome earlier. As we drove the 300m or so, the fresh air was a welcome relief until more putrid molecules began to assault nasal passages. Beached under a tree, all alone, barely able to open her eyes was a ginormous Leya. She was so full breathing even looked like an unbearable effort – although she may have just been taking shallow breaths to avoid the eye-watering odour.
The area the pride had chosen to settle in at pan 1 has become one of the pride’s most favoured. The grass still towers in this area of the site, and the particular bush is set only a metre or two from the pan’s edge. As the riverbed’s perimeter twists and turns there is literally no spot in which you can park the vehicle where you can see them when they sit in it. Even from the other side of the waterpan, the grass is still too tall to see across. Still, it wasn’t all bad as Kela and Temi settled in the shade on the road between the bush and the waterpan and Loma’s leg would occasionally wobble out of the grass for a tantalising view of what we were missing. Leya eventually joined the rest of the pride here, but after two or three seconds disappeared from view too. So we took the small crumb they’d thrown us and settled for a view of Kela and Temi; and tried to hold our breath every time the direction of the wind changed.
Temi & Zulu
The next morning the pride was still hanging around pan 1, but had inched their way out of the grass and bushes and sitting closer to a clearing. At first however we only had a clear view of Temi and Zulu who were basking in the warming morning sun a few metres from one another. The rest of the pride was only a few more metres away but sitting the other side of a large bank of grass. First Rusha came and joined the duo, followed by the L sisters and Kwandi. Always the last one to the party, Kela finally sauntered through.
Kela and Kwandi have always been fairly independent types, while there’s a strong bond between them, they’re equally confident in the company of others away from their sibling. But over the last few weeks it seems that despite the strong network throughout the Dambwa pride the Ks have discovered there really is no substitute for your sister. A perfect example of this came this morning as Kela made her way through the group, bypassing regular associate Temi, blatantly blanking Zulu, snubbing everyone else’s current Belle de Jour, Rusha, stopping for a quick meet and greet with Leya and Loma, before finally reaching Kwandi. First one then a second head-rub for her sister before settling down close by.
As we enjoyed the clear view, Loma decided to ruin it. Infused with a sense of urgency she marched 20m North with Zulu in hot pursuit. Everyone else craned their necks to see what they were doing, including those of us in the vehicle. Grass as usual was the obstacle, but the pair seemed to be tracking something. As we followed the progress of their rear ends raised in the air the pair went round and round in circles as we and the rest of pride watched for the next 10 minutes. Curiosity got the better of Leya and she walked 10 metres closer and observed the pair. Bolstered by the presence of her own sister, Loma then led Zulu, Leya and Rusha to the North.
We stuck with the Ks and Temi a few minutes longer to see if they’d follow, but decided it was best to see what the others were up to. We caught up to them near Muhila’s gate – under a tree Loma and Zulu were once more noses to ground and bums to air, but Leya was now leading Rusha East. With now three separate groups of lions – a rarity in the Dambwa site – we were struck by a moment’s indecision. Find out what had so interested Loma and Zulu? Follow Rusha and Leya? Go back and see if the Ks and Temi were up to anything? Luckily the lions settled things for us.
Kela (above) & Loma (below)
We were about to follow Leya and Rusha when Kela led Temi and Kwandi to Loma and Zulu’s current location. Almost simultaneously, Zulu then led Loma and Kela East after Leya and Rusha. With the leading pair now long gone, we decided to follow this trio in the suspicion that they’d know where to find the others. Leaving Temi and Kwandi, we set off through the grass and no surprises they led us straight to Leya and Rusha in eastern Kariba. Not too long later, Kwandi and Temi pitched up too. After the frenetic activity of the last hour, all sense of purpose soon left them as they settled in for a mid-morning nap.
Leya, Loma & Zulu