A new technique
December 3 2013

Kela

Kela was alone at Waterpan 3 on the morning of the 22nd November. It was immediately obvious she’d been feeding quite recently and after a search past waterpans 3 and 2, the rest of the pride were busy with the paltry remains of what a few hours ago had been a zebra. Despite this, Leya was still feeding when we arrived and was soon joined in the race to get every last scrap from the bones by Kwandi, Rusha and her daughters, RS1 and RS3; all officiated over by Zulu, of course.

Leya, Kwandi, RS1, Rusha, RS3 and Zulu

Having had her fill, Leya led everyone – except the RS family who remained with the carcass for another couple of hours – on a short jaunt towards pan 2. Pretty soon Kela joined them and later on in the day Rusha and the cubs pitched up too to sleep off the meal.

On the afternoon of the 25th we found the pride in two groups at opposite ends of the site; Rusha was our first find who had caught a zebra earlier that day – seemingly by herself and had made a good start in devouring it, but when we first saw her she was a short distance away in the boundary calling softly; presumably to her cubs. Leaving her to find them, we set off in search of the rest of the pride and found the other six members in Chisamu, in the south East of the site.

It was clear none of them had eaten from Rusha’s kill confirming that she had indeed given her cubs a solo master class in how one goes about catching dinner.

Kela, Kwandi & Loma

RS1 & RS2 on Rusha, RS3 infront of

With the rest of the pride lazy and with little activity, we returned to Rusha to find that she had now brought the cubs to the carcass from wherever they’d been resting. They must have however already eaten earlier as the main task of the afternoon was play. Rusha took a battering which she suffered with her usual air of nonchalance, but more than anything the zebra’s tail was a prime toy for the cubs.

Rusha & RS2

However, the rest of the pride must have found her and the carcass overnight as by the following morning barely anything was left and they rested close by.

A search was launched on the afternoon of the 27th as Rusha appeared to have forgotten exactly where she had left the cubs. Either that, or they’d taken it upon themselves to wander off and explore elsewhere. Rusha spent much of the afternoon walking in circles, calling every 20-30 seconds in the Chisamu area of the site, with Temi barely leaving Rusha’s side during the search. By the end of the afternoon the cubs had still not been located.

Temi trails after Rusha through Chisamu

The following day however we found the pride a short distance away from where we’d left Rusha and Temi the previous day in Sahara. Temi and the K sisters were engaging in an extended social session.  We had to wait until the three had finished wobbling and swaying into one another as they greeted over and over again before we were able to get a look in the bushes where the rest of the pride was resting and confirm that all three cubs were safely back in Rusha’a care.

RS3 limbers up for another assault on Rusha

Despite the relief of their being located, Rusha clearly is set on continuing the weaning process with the trio and much of the afternoon was spent with them waiting for her to drop before ambushing and trying to suckle – which in turn would wake her up and cause her to roll over and deny them access, before the entire process repeated. Rusha’s patience with the cubs has been remarkable over the last five months, but this afternoon she was clearly reaching the end of her tether. RS2 soon took the hint and moved away, but his sisters continued to pester her to the point that both received a warning nip. But even that didn’t deter them…

The morning of the 29th and Kela, Kwandi, Leya, Loma and Temi were resting in Tsavo, Rusha’s signal was coming from the Grand Canyon area, and Zulu had vanished off the face of the earth. It was a quiet morning with the lions only really waking up to sniff the breeze every now and again on what was a surprisingly blustery day. The morning passed in relative peace until we were returning to them after breakfast. From about 500m away we could see that a herd of around 10 zebra was approaching the exact spot where we’d left the five girls earlier. Signals confirmed all 5 were still in the area and after a search of the horizon we could see the profile of one lion which looked suspiciously like Loma resting under the tree we had left them under – and where the lead zebra in the herd was headed straight for. The lead in the herd was probably around 50-60m ahead of the others and it was clearly utterly oblivious to the lions’ presence. Judging distances as best we could from afar, it seemed that the zebra only spotted the lions as it literally walked into them – perhaps 5-10m at best. Bolting 100m or so, there was no sign that the lions were chasing; a lucky escape. With the rest of the herd watching, we were slightly surprised to see another zebra do the exact same thing a minute or so later… but still no response from the lions. Then the rest of the herd walked past en-masse - and this time the lions came out running; namely Leya and Kwandi. Someone must have been looking out for the zebra that morning as they managed to evade the attack by the slimmest of margins.

The zebra pass within metres of the lions...

...Kwandi & Leya charge, but leave it too late

Now out of harm’s way, the herd stood watching the lions from 120m away.  With two scouts keeping watch the rest of the herd began to graze before slowly moving off to safer pastures. Despite coming within metres of a kill, there was one lion who hadn’t quite shown the same amount of enthusiasm for the hunt. Kela is a bit of an odd individual who at times can show a willingness to get involved – whether hunting, social or any other group behaviour – that can border on excessive. But quite often she can also show a laziness and indifference to any situation that can be equally as impressive. Having not twitched a nerve the entire time the zebra were within striking distance, it was two or three minutes after the zebra had moved off that she rose, and crept in full stalk mode around the anthill where she had been resting to face the area where the zebra had been. Apparently shocked that they hadn’t waited for her, she stood to her full height and began scanning the area before plonking herself back down.

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