Zulu Gets A Spanking
August 24 2015

Zulu gets a spanking

It’s been a pretty eventful time in Dambwa, once again with the RS sub-adults bearing the brunt of some of these events.  On the morning of the 13th of August we dropped a scavenge in the site. As the day began to heat up the growing aggregation of vultures alerted the lions to the fact that there may be something worth investigating elsewhere in the site.  By the time we returned that afternoon we found the carcass had been more or less demolished and Zulu was the only lion still present.  But not for long.  Shortly after we arrived about a dozen vultures suddenly shot up from the ground and a very fat, panting Leya was stood where they had previously been feeding, looking very proud of herself for getting rid of them. Moments later we spotted the LE cubs, also with large bellies swaying as they walked, being escorted along the road by Kela. Given the direction of their arrival it seemed the rest of the pride had taken a short break from the feast to make a trip to Pan 2 for liquid refreshments.


As the LE family resettled around the remains of the carcass, Zulu rose and began heading in the direction from which they had just arrived from. Shortly after, Kela approached the LE family, and was met by a short charge from Leya, who drew up short after apparently realising who it was. Kela is fairly unflappable and paid her half-sister no mind, settling about 5 metres away from the feeding cubs and their protective mother. We’ve often noticed that Leya seems to favour LE1, but in recent months the smothering attentions of his mother seemed to have waned somewhat. Today however, they were back with a vengeance. Positioning herself next to LE1, Leya formed a protective circle around her special boy – encircling him as he fed with her front legs and paws. On a couple of very curious occasions she actually appeared to be initiating a head rub/greeting on the meat he was feeding from! The likelihood being that she was actually trying to greet LE1 but couldn’t reach that far across and was too full to stand up and do it properly. About half an hour later the rest of the pride slowly began to filter back into the area with RS1 coming closest to the LE’s and Kela. RS1 however did not fare as well as Kela did and was fully charged by Leya. The younger female immediately submitted and rolled on her back, but Leya was not backing down and continued to slap at RS1 until she retreated and went to sit 40 metres away with her mother.

LE1 and LE2

As Leya returned to LE1’s side, it was barely five minutes later that RS2 came to see what they were up to. As he sat down about 15 metres away Leya was instantly huffing and growling before charging the young male. RS2 has had his fair share of confrontation over recent months and wasn’t as easy to intimidate as his sister, matching Leya blow for blow.  A small victory for RS2 as the fierce mother retreated back to LE1’s side – who seemed oblivious to the ruckus a few metres away being initiated on his behalf. But RS2’s victory was short lived.  As LE3 approached LE1, this in turn caused LE1 to move away… which sent Leya into another rage, which she directed again towards RS2.  Whether she overwhelmed him this time, or he’d just merely had enough of her assaults RS2 retreated to his mother and sister, and was followed by LE3.


Two days later on the morning of the 15th we caught Leya with the RS sub-adults and the LE cubs having just walked past the riverbed and heading back in the direction of the scavenge site from the 13th. Clearly there were some tasty morsels left over as all three LE cubs and RS1 began picking over the bits and pieces. After another 10 minutes or so, the rest of the pride had joined them too and it didn’t take long for the fiery LE temper to resurface again – but this time it was from a surprising source and directed towards an even more surprising recipient. Kela and Zulu had been two of the last stragglers to join the pride, and as Kela in her usual nonchalant attitude meandered through the group looking for a spot to rest Zulu was right behind her. As the pair passed the feeding LE cubs, LE1 suddenly launched himself at Zulu! All told, LE1 is probably about the size of Zulu’s head and the young male had wrapped himself around Zulu’s head and neck fiercely growling and slashing at the juggernaut that is Zulu. We could barely believe our eyes, as the not-quite 19-month old basically gave his father a spanking, and shockingly once Zulu had disentangled himself from his son he simply slinked away giving no retribution. Once Zulu had sat down, we could see a number of tufts of his mane had been pulled loose and were now sticking out at odd angles.

The RSs must have been thrilled…


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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