Confusing times

7 10 2011

There has been unrest in the release site over the last few days.  After Phyre relocated her litter on Monday (3 October) to a new den, the cubs were seen suckling their mother on Wednesday and Thursday.  However, only two cubs were counted during these time periods. Upon moving her first cub to the new den some 500 metres away, the rest of the litter were left unattended and Phyre was later seen moving another cub to the new den.  AT1 was observed on Monday carrying a cub around and playing with it quite some distance away from either the original or new den.  Is it possible that AT1 stumbled across the den whilst Phyre was away, and the playful AT1 thought that this new cub would be a great friend to play with?  However, her actions may have dire consequences; as AT1 becomes distracted with some other interesting stimulus and leaves the cub to fend for itself without a mother around to know of its location – blind, helpless and only a day or so old, the cub stands no chance to survive on its own, especially with the relentless rain and wind.   This third cub could also have been abandoned by Phyre because some instinctual awareness told her that this particular cub is unhealthy or unfit in some way – we will never know for sure, however Phyre has made no attempt to look or call for her third and missing cub.  Mothers of many species will abandon sick offspring if they do not think that it would be worth the precious time and resources to raise it only for it to die within a few days or weeks.  All we know at this point is that Phyre has two cubs with her, and seemingly AT1 has the third as a play thing.

We have not been able to confirm the location of Kenge’s den site yet as much of the release site is inaccessible by vehicle, especially when the roads become muddy.  It is likely that Kenge is busy preparing herself for her probable motherhood with the aid of her sister Kwali, who also was absent from the rest of the pride on Thursday.

Most of the lions have been spending their time on Wednesday and Thursday feeding intermittently on the carcass.  After the incident on Tuesday when Kenge attacked a vulture mid-air, the rest of the vultures seemed to have learnt their lesson and have stayed away whilst the lions are in residence.   However, the usually intelligent crows do not appear to have been deterred, leaving Athena no choice but to chase after them when they get too close to the food.

By Thursday, most of the scavengers had finally given up, leaving Athena in peace and quiet to attend to her lunch.  As she tried to drag the carcass around to access a yummy portion of ribs, she appeared to not realise her own strength and with one pull managed to haul the entire chest over herself, falling into the huge cavern of ribcage!  This did not seem to bother her one bit, as she continued on munching away as if nothing had ever happened.

As the sun was setting AT1 was seen with the cub again; and this time it suckled Athena alongside AT1.  Athena got up to move away from the area and called softly.  AT1 picked up the cub and started to follow but soon dropped it again.  After about 5 mins Phyre arrived, went to the calling cub and sniffed it then went straight to AT1 to biff her.  We thought she’d come to save the day but she started to walk off towards her den without the cub; but then stopped, turned around and walked back to the carcass, still paying little attention to the cub; further suggesting that Phyre may have abandoned this one.  The night closed in and we are not sure what further events took place as there was insufficient light to establish which lion was which or where the cub was.

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