An education for the RS cubs
July 29 2014

Zulu, Loma and Kela

The afternoon of the1st July found a small sub-grouping of Kela, Loma and Zulu in the area around pan 2 of Bwizu. We found the rest of the pride a couple of hundred metres away on the other side of a bank of trees running through the area. This particular part of the site hasn’t been favoured by the pride for some time, but has become increasingly popular of late. With the new shoots of grass emerging after last month’s burning, it’s attracting the game in the site for browsing and therefore also attracting the lions.

Temi and LE2

It wasn’t long however before the two groups formed into one. After Kela led a short move West we got an encouraging sight of Temi relaxing close to LE2. While perhaps not best friends just yet, the returning Temi’s progress with the cubs over the last few weeks has been a huge positive. However, the LE cubs still have a small obstacle in their way as mum, Leya, continued her efforts that afternoon into weaning her litter. LE1 and LE2 aren’t necessarily happy with the situation, but they do seem somewhat more resigned to it than LE3 who has been most vocal and persistent in his protestations at the new rations.

Leya and LE3

By the 4th July play was more the order of proceedings for the cubs than worrying about milk, for LE2 and LE3 especially who enjoyed a healthy bout of wrestling to start the morning off. The social play gradually moved onto object play with some sticks and old bones, which in turn attracted the attentions of RS3. Twelve months versus five months was no contest really, and RS3 made sure she asserted her big sister status stealing virtually every toy the young LE cubs could lay their paws on.

RS3 and LE2

The afternoon of the 9th saw the play continue for the LE cubs, whilst the rest of the pride relaxed around water pan 3. One sleeping form was of especial interest to the youngsters: Zulu. Whilst LE3 repeatedly practiced a choke hold on his sleeping dad, LE1 and LE2 used him as a convenient platform from which to store and balance their plethora of accumulated toys upon. Zulu however, was the very picture of tolerance as he barely batted an eyelid throughout the afternoon and patiently allowed himself to be transformed into the LE cubs very own jungle gym.

Zulu and the LE cubs

The 11th found most of the pride in a tricky area. Chobe is possibly the densest part of the site in terms of vegetation and vehicle access is tricky, if not impossible in some spots. So it’s always a little frustrating when the pride hole themselves up here, and this was where everyone bar the RS family was stationed that morning. Rusha and her cohort however began the morning further East into the site in Sahara before continuing their family away day later at pan 3.

A return to the tall grass on the 15th frustrated our efforts with only vague blobs being made out here or there when someone shifted to a different spot. Overnight however, the whole pride had relocated to pan 3 and having been shunned numerous times over the last few weeks, the LE cubs were now being given free reign to Leya’s milk supply – which they happily consumed.

The area around the water hole is relatively open and a small herd of five puku had spotted the lions from a safe distance of about 150m away. Their warning whistles however drew the curious eye of RS1 who would bolt upright every once in a while to fix her gaze upon them. But none of the pride’s hunters seemed interested in giving the youngster lessons on something that had already spotted them. RS3 took matters into her own hands. A flock of some 20 guinea fowl clustered the other side of the pan nervously taking sips from the water whilst the pride slept. The LE cubs watched in fascination, while RS3 took cover behind a small clump of grass about 10m away from the birds. RS2 and LE3 however chose Temi for cover.

RS3

RS3 had already been spotted as she made her way over to her hideout but nonetheless acted the part of a seasoned huntress craning her neck up and down and side to side to keep a watch on her quarry. Tail flicking, she could stand it no more and jumped out from behind her shelter. The fowl, already keenly aware of her presence, paid her barely any mind and continued on their way. Seemingly confused at their lack of desire to be eaten, RS3 stood watching for a few moments before turning heel and taking her frustration out on younger brother LE1, and practicing a fairly convincing choke hold on him.

The following week saw the pride return once more to the Chisamu area of the site where towering grass still dominates. Little information was on view to be collected other than the odd entertaining sighting of the RS cubs – RS3 especially, again – stretching their stalking and chasing muscles as they persued some vultures.

On the afternoon of the 26th we initially discovered Temi, Rusha and the RS cubs making their way through Puku Dambo towards Pan 3. The other pride members signals weren’t too far away, but this group clearly weren’t looking for the rest of the pride; they were on the hunt. A small herd of impala were drinking from the pride’s favoured watering hole and Temi needed no further invitation. As the RS family took cover along the road, Temi glided expertly through the area towards her prey. RS1 jumped the gun however, and stampeded her way out into full view. A missed opportunity and the group settled at the pan whilst we headed off to look for the rest of the pride. They’d had the same idea and we’d barely made it 100m down the road before we found Zulu leading everyone towards the waterpan and the two groups settled into one.

Two days later on the afternoon of the 28th it initially looked as though we’d had a wasted trip. The pride’s collar signals were quite firmly fixed deep in the treeline behind Pan 3. After 20 minutes of peering and searching the boundary we were about to give up. But then some impala began making their way into the treeline almost at the exact spot we were picking up their signals… Searching the vegetation for any sign of the pride we were finally rewarded as Temi came flying out of cover, barely a metre behind the fleeing impala. Hitting the boundary road quite literally in front of our vehicle, the herd split and Temi sprinted out of our sight West after one group, the other heading further into an open area. From our first sight of Temi to the moment she disappeared down the road, was mere seconds - and it took a second or two more to recover ourselves. But after a moment we made our way along the road in the direction in which Temi had taken off. Barely travelling more than 20m, Zulu and the RS cubs led the rest of the pride out of the boundary in front of us.

Waiting for Temi

Mothers Rusha and Leya remained especially alert for any sounds of interest coming from the hunt, but after a while all settled down in the open. The action seemed to have inspired a desire for mischief amongst the cubs and LE1 especially seemed keen to practice a bit of biting and wrestling play. Twenty minutes later Temi’s signal began to gain in strength and it seemed she was returning. Once more Rusha and Leya seemed acutely interested in the direction Temi had chased in. But it wasn’t for a further 10 minutes until we saw her again. Having missed the pride entirely, we could see her about 120m away re-entering the treeline from where the pride had initially emerged. She scanned the area behind her several times but didn't seem to spot either the lions or our vehicle. A couple of flicks of her tail and she slunk deeper into treeline; taking up position once more no doubt for the next opportunity.

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