Leya and Kela
The afternoon of Thursday the 14th saw the rest of the pride joining Temi in the East of the site on a kill she’d made the previous day. With stomachs more than full, the lions were resting a few hundred metres from the remains around a natural water pan in the East of the site which forms every year once the rains start.
RS1's got it all: sticks + mum = hours of fun
Rusha’s cubs were in fine form; sticks were a source of great fascination and they chewed and carried their new toys around with no small amount of pride and fascination. But the best thing of all was an collared dove who was oblivious enough to allow the cubs to stalk within a metre of it – interestingly enough young male RS2 leading the stalk, and showing the keenest interest.
RS2 leads his sister on a stalk
Kela and Kwandi became the objects of the cubs’ attentions with a cheeky ankle tap here and there, but the brunt of the cubs’ energies were of course saved for Rusha. The besieged mother, in the face of a barrage of bites, kicks and other rough-housing, groomed her now mud-covered young with grim determination until they were a little more presentable.
Rusha tries to groom a boisterous RS3
The following day however was rather different. The pride had departed the previous afternoon’s spot, but we were soon able to narrow down Rusha and Temi’s location to north Sahara; we could only get a visual of Rusha however, and Temi – while her signal was strong – remained out of sight for the rest of the day.
The rest of the pride’s signals suggested they were around the Grand Canyon junction, but try as we might we couldn’t find them. And so the morning was spent with Rusha, looking quite regal on her own; or rather, on her own with Temi and more than likely the cubs nearby.
Storms and downpours played their part to keep us out of the site for a few days until the morning of the 19th when we discovered that we’d missed absolutely nothing. All of the pride, minus Temi and the cubs, were in Puku Dambo, close to pan 3, and remained motionless throughout the morning (except for a kick to the face from Kwandi to Zulu).
The following morning found a little more life but not much with the KL foursome plus Zulu in Kariba, alongside the riverbed which stretches into Pan 1. Asides from a brief mating bout between Kwandi and Zulu, there was little activity as the group was already settling in for the day as the morning heat began to build. We spotted Temi on the border of Tsavo, and soon discerned that Rusha’s signal was nearby. Taking a sweep around the area we spotted her just as she was entering a large bush, where the cubs were waiting for mum to return from wherever she had been. Temi soon joined them, although kept a safe distance from the cubs as they whined and complained for Rusha to allow them milk.
Milk's off the menu
Access to milk is something Rusha has started to curtail over recent weeks. Around 4-5 weeks ago we could see that she was becoming intolerant of all three cubs suckling at once, but would allow one or two (depending on her mood) to suckle. RS1 would make the best use of these new conditions and wait until her brother and sister had thoroughly annoyed Rusha, been sent packing, and fallen asleep – before swooping in for some rather impressive 30-40 minute solo sessions. Rusha hasn’t shut up shop completely at this point, but with cubs now regular fixtures at carcasses the weaning process has clearly started with Rusha frequently rolling onto her stomach when the cubs approach to suckle. Whether her resolve will stick however with RS2’s increasingly vocal protestations remains to be seen…
RS2 - not going down without a fight