11 03 2012

We’ve thoroughly enjoyed observing Ashanti’s little girl and boy more and more with the pride recently. They, along with KE3 and KE4 have been milling around the pride on a daily basis and igniting a playful mood in AT1.

There were no cubs spotted on the morning on the 9th however, which was a blessing in disguise as the females spotted a small herd of impala in the Valley area and got straight to work. The Valley, Hwange and Tree Tops areas managed to escape the bush fire that swept through in Ngamo last year allowing the grass to tower and thicken. An impala ram was seen over looking the ocean of grass from a tall termite mound keeping a watchful eye out over his harem of females. We tried our best to maintain a visual of the females from the road with binoculars poised but the grass was impossible to see through. Our researcher placed her binoculars down and decided the sit and listen intently. Sure enough the sound of fleeing impala was soon heard and Kwali was seen chasing the ram and his females along the boundary road but sadly they managed to escape into the grass.

On the 10th we found the pride had relocated in the Camp area. We’ve noticed over the past few months the pride, especially the females, are roaring less and less. This is perfectly normal behaviour with young cubs now a part of the pride. Whilst roaring is a vital component of territorial defense lionesses will not advertise their presence nor challenge intruders if there are young cubs present incase a conflict were to occur putting the cubs at risk. However Milo has been noted to advertise his territory on occasion still and one particular bout certainly caught the attention of one of his girls. Our researcher was shocked to hear a ferociously deep mini-roar bellow from a nearby bush where both KE3 and 4 were resting by mother Kenge. Even Kenge appeared quite taken a-back by the cubs vocalization. Although we could not see which cubs specifically piped up our researcher put an educated guess upon KE3 who so far has shown to be the most boisterous and noisy of the two sisters.


Cubs! be quiet and pay attention

5 03 2012

Both KE3 and KE4 have been observed with the pride virtually every day recently, but this has not been the case with AS4 and AS5.  Being exactly one month younger than the KEs, mother Ashanti is leaving them in a den still, giving them a chance to conserve their energy and keep out of the way when the adults are hunting!  On the 3rd March the entire pride, including AS4 and 5 were together. Both cubs appeared in good condition, if a little gangly at this age.  Even at a mere 4 months old AS5 is already beginning to show signs of the huge growth spurt he will go through. The difference in height is already quite visible between brother and sister but it is still AS4 with the larger character!

On that morning we found all females and cubs resting on the road that passes near to water hole one. Suddenly Phyre sat to attention, vigilant to an approaching herd of impala. Phyre rose to her paws and skulked off into the nearby vegetation whilst the others sat exposed yet frozen. The impala slowly mingled their way into a large thicket, obscuring any view they may have of the lions. Narnia, always looking for an opportunity quickly flanked left around the thicket and out of sight. Meanwhile Ashanti, Kenge and AT1 focused their attention upon some grazing zebra who were completely unaware of the cats.

The zebra began to move in closer, to within 15m! Noisy little AS4 and 5 soon picked up upon their mother’s behaviour and piped down, also focussing their attention upon the strange stripy beasts. Suddenly an impala ram spotted the lionesses and gave the alarm. Neither the zebra nor the rest of his herd reacted immediately, but just as it appeared the lionesses luck was in the game spooked and bolted away.  AT1 wasn’t about to let this opportunity escape her and she too bolted after the animals. After a quick 20m sprint she realized her efforts would be fruitless and gave up. We then spotted Narnia appearing from the thicket presumably from attempting to ambush the herd and push them towards the other lionesses. Despite the failure the whole event was no doubt an important learning session for the young cubs and it was fantastic to observe them paying attention to the adults behaviour and learning when to keep quiet!

When the hunter becomes the hunted

19 02 2012

We’ve begun to catch the Ngamo lions being fairly active during midday hours these last few days. With no large kill made for a week it appears the girls are beginning to try their luck within their normal sleeping hours for hunting opportunities.  On the 16th we stumbled across Nala at water hole 2 stalking some nearby impala and zebra. At first we suspected sister Narnia to be in the area also locked onto the herd, however it soon became apparent Nala as on her own hunting mission.  As the game began to move off into Etosha, Nala broke her cover and stealthily glided close past our vehicle, muscles twitching with anticipation.

The herd, still contently grazing, moved behind a small thicket creating a perfect ambush opportunity for Nala. Nala decided to take advantage of the cover and began to move in closer upon them. Unfortunately though one pesky impala had spotted her. The impala quickly alerted her fellow herd members and all fled in unison.

Appearing most frustrated Nala turned abruptly on her heels in the opposite direction and headed into Serengeti East. Little did the miffed lioness realise though that the hunter had become the hunted. The large impala herd followed Nala closely as she skulked away into the grass. The zebra snorted whilst the impala scraped their hooves upon the ground defensively. Following a predator and making themselves visible may seem a foolish move, but a predator you can see is far less dangerous than one you cannot!

Phyre on fire

12 02 2012

Mothers Kenge and Ashanti have obviously had enough of their cub’s endless energy and, in need of break, left their cubs in a den on the 9th.  The females, free of interruptions from demanding cubs, slept soundly and undisturbed for most of the day before setting off upon their daily rounds in the late afternoon. Nala and Narnia lead the way south from the Kruger area into Etosha and all sleepily followed. However something suddenly woke Phyre up as she leapt in the air with a startled growl. Nala turned back to Phyre’s rescue to investigate the disturbance and bare her canines at whatever it was on the ground causing such a reaction. Eventually the lionesses lost interest and AT1 curiously approached too before catching up with the parade leading away. We pulled our vehicle up to where Phyre was given a shock, and where we suspected there was a snake of some sort.  We were bang on the money!  A 3-meter rock python spread out from his coils.  We’ve seen a few pythons in the release site over the past year and a half and although they are impressive they pose a serious threat to young cubs.  It’s therefore great to see the caution the lionesses use when approaching these monster snakes.

The 10th started off with a spark and ended with a bang for the pride. We found the females moving through Serengeti East towards water hole 2 in pursuit of a large impala herd. The females, downwind, formed a perfect linear formation, hidden in the tall grass, some 100m from the herd and watched intently their prey’s movements.  Unfortunately the herd began to move further off towards water hole 1 and the lionesses obviously felt this time the odds were against them and took to some nearby acacia’s to sleep. However unbeknown to them a very young impala calf had been left by their mother some 70m from the pride. We watched with baited breath the entire day as the calf continuously rose and broke its cover, yet no lions spotted it.

By the afternoon we could no longer see the calf and the pride began to move off south along Route 66 with Kenge leading. As Kenge passed through an area of very tall grass Nala took up the rear and suddenly began to stalk. We spotted a lone impala, which we presumed to be the calf’s mother in the area and it seemed Nala was hot on her case. Then out of nowhere Nala and Phyre shot like a bullet over the open grass of the Camp area in pursuit of the previously seen impala calf!  The calf circled frantically trying to out run the hungry lionesses but all in vain. Phyre closed in upon the little lamb and grabbed it by the neck. She then sprinted away from the other startled pride members but Ashanti, Kenge and Kwali were not about to let a potential mouthful go to waste. The females scuffled momentarily over the catch and Kenge, Kwali, Ashanti and Phyre all managed to split the calf adequately. Most surprising was Milo’s reaction. He jogged over to the girls but rather than throwing his weight around as usual for a bite he merely sniffed at those with meat and moved off to wait until they had finished!

To no ones surprise not even a hoof was left for the rest of pride. By the time the lucky females began to clean themselves up the mini-Ngamo pride arrived. KE3, KE4, AS4 and AS5 ran frantically to Kenge and began to lick the blood from her whiskers. They had obviously heard the commotion and braved leaving the den alone in hopes of catching a meaty meal. However they had to make do with another milk-based dinner from Ashanti.

All must have been grateful for Phyre’s quick thinking and moves!

Milo celebrates new year with a feast fit for a king, and his cubs

5 01 2012

Friday (30 December) turned out to be quite an action-packed day in Ngamo.  After a very sleepy start with Nala, Narnia, Phyre, Kwali and AT1 all dozing in Masai Mara, we left the lazy lions in search of their fellow pride members.  In Treetops we found them, and what a surprise we got.

Ashanti was sitting with her two cubs playing around her, Milo was sitting on a wildebeest kill and Kenge was sitting alone looking on at Milo, obviously waiting for her opportunity to eat!  The usually grumpy Milo lay beside the carcass growling, fearful of any advances the lionesses may make.  Eventually Milo drifted off to sleep and Kenge seized her opportunity and approached ever so slowly.  Just as she began her breakfast Milo awoke and Kenge hastily attempted to drag the carcass away.  Milo threw his weight down and the stubborn pair sat on the wildebeest, neither one willing to submit, for over 30 minutes.

Ashanti, seeing that she was not going to get the opportunity to eat left  with her cubs, perhaps taking them to safety before returning to fight for her portion.  Kenge finally managed to tear off a leg and ran into bushes to enjoy it peacefully and, as suspected, Ashanti returned  without her cubs for her chance to dine.

Mid morning and MI in his usual fashion was sleeping, holding tightly to the carcass.  Kenge was still nearby, now with KE3 and KE4.  Milo once again began to snack and the curious cubs made their way over to see what dad was doing.  Surprisingly, without any hesitation the pair tucked into the wildebeest.   Their very first taste of meat!

Overzealous KE3 got a little too close to Milo and he swiped at her flipping her head over paws into a somersault.  Stunned by dad’s outburst KE3 and KE4 both ran to mum calling for reassurance.  Not being too put off by Milo’s dominance the brave pair re-approached him but decided this time to eat their first meal slightly further away to avoid any more collisions.  After a while Milo had had his fill and left the carcass to his two young cubs.  KE4 instantly spotted the wildebeest’s horns and, just like dad, began to drag them away.  KE3 could not resist joining in the fun but was met with a quick bop on the nose and a mini growl from angry little KE4.  It seems KE4 has been paying more attention around the adults than we thought!  Intent on finding something else to play with, KE3 amused herself with the mane of the wildebeest that lay amongst the remains.

By late afternoon Phyre, Kwali, Nala, Narnia and AT1 had woken from their sleep and were no longer in Masai Mara. AT1 had found her way to this morning’s wildebeest carcass and was doing her best to find some scraps that had been left on the bones.  Without much success she moved on, anxiously looking for her fellow pride members.  After a few moments of wandering in and out of long grass and shrubs she, and ourselves, heard growling close by.  At one of the furthermost parts of the site in Treetops an impala had just met its end at the claws of Nala, Narnia, Phyre, Kwali and Ashanti.   As the girls all took hold it was Kwali who seized the prize and ran away with the almost intact carcass leaving Nala, Narnia, Phyre and Ashanti with only very small pieces.  The late arriving AT1 unfortunately went without and did her best to lie flat to the ground whilst creeping up behind Ashanti in the hope of gaining something to eat.  Ashanti, aware of AT1’s sneaky intentions, swiped at her forcing her back and continued to eat the small portion she had managed to get for herself.

Saturday (31 December) morning was quite subdued compared to yesterday with Milo resting on his own in Etosha. Phyre, AT1, Nala, Narnia, Kwali, Kenge, KE3 and KE4 were not too far away from him lazing in Serengeti East.  The ever-playful cubs spent their time as usual making their own fun and, while KE4 attempted to chase a bird, KE3 climbed a short way up a tree and sat for a while chewing on the branches.

As the day, and an eventful 2011, drew to an end Ashanti and Kenge tended to their cubs in their respective dens; Milo, Phyre, Kwali, Nala, Narnia and AT1 were resting together, and we left the Ngamo pride wishing them all a very strong and healthy new year with every hope for their continued success in 2012.

Ashanti and her cubs join the pride after a long absence

3 01 2012

On Tuesday (27 December) morning we found Nala, Narnia and AT1 all resting in ever-popular Etosha.  Close by, in the shade of a large tree, lay a lioness and her cubs but to our joy the lioness in question was not Kenge, it was Ashanti and her two beautiful and healthy cubs, making a trip out to visit the pride for the very first time! It had been some time since we last saw Ashanti’s cubs, the last time being early December before Ashanti moved her den site to another secret location.   The two young cubs played together, tumbling over one another, all the while staying close to mum.  Ashanti, perhaps feeling that a brief morning visit was just long enough to have her young away from home, returned her cubs to the safety of their den and by midday she had come back to spend some time relaxing with the rest of the pride.

However it was now Kenge’s turn to bring along some new faces and she rested close by to Ashanti, Nala, Narnia, AT1 and Milo while KE3 and KE4 amused themselves with the natural toys they found lying about.  As the clouds rolled in and a thunder storm took hold an enormous thunderclap startled young KE3 and KE4 and they bolted off in different directions to escape the deafening sound, leaving Kenge not knowing which one to chase after first.

Later that day Kenge and her cubs moved on to Masai Mara where Milo was resting.  His peace and quiet was to be short-lived as KE3 and KE4 decided that dad was to be their new play thing.  The youngsters approached Milo, sneaking up behind him and nibbling on his tail.  They even managed to climb onto his back for a few moments, before he would turn quickly causing them to bounce off!  After a while of being used as a springboard Milo decided he had had enough and when he snarled at the two pestering playmates Kenge in turn snarled at Milo, protective of her naturally playful cubs.

On Wednesday (28 December) morning the whole pride, with the exception of the cubs, were resting in Kruger.  Just before midday a herd of impala made an unlucky decision to walk straight into the path of the Ngamo lions.  Phyre and AT1 rested on the path while the other pride members were taking shade in a nearby tree on the corner of Forest Drive. One unfortunate impala headed directly into the bush where a lioness was waiting and she pounced at the antelope missing it by inches.  As all the action happened just as our researcher approached the pride it is difficult to say which of our females made the first move, but we suspect it was Ashanti followed swiftly by Kwali and Kenge.  As the girls gave chase and we attempted to follow them into the dense area of Treetops the unmistakable sound of a feeding frenzy was heard.  Success! It was Kenge and Kwali who managed to get their claws in first and the pair made off into the bushes seizing the majority of the impala.  Narnia and Ashanti grabbed themselves a small portion but unlucky Nala, Phyre, AT1 and Milo were unfortunately left to go hungry.  AT1, not accustomed to missing out while dad is around, tried her very best creeping tactics as Ashanti ate her lunch, only to be swiped on the nose by the annoyed lioness.

Thursday (29 December) was a much more subdued day in Ngamo with Kwali, Kenge and her cubs resting at waterhole 1. As Kwali and Kenge slept off the action from yesterday lively KE3 and KE4 made their own fun, playing with branches and chewing on an old tree stump.

By late afternoon Kwali had moved on from her sister and joined Nala, Narnia, Phyre, and AT1 who were resting in Treetops.  Kwali, the low-ranking lioness who does not often get the best seat in the site, snuggled up to Narnia and Nala where they remained as the sun began to set.

After days of lying around the Ngamo pride get peckish

19 12 2011

Following a period of lazy days and sleeping the past week in Ngamo has been one of bloodshed.

Tuesday (13 December) was perhaps the build-up to the killing spree as Nala locked her hunting instincts on a baby impala that had dangerously strayed too far away from its mother, and who were now separated from each other by a group of hungry lions.  It was a nail-biting episode for our researcher and volunteers as they watched nervously as Nala stalked the tiny antelope.  To Nala’s disappointment, baby impala can very fast and managed to out-run her following a lengthy chase.

Nala’s embarrassment of missing out on the impala yesterday could quite possibly have made her more determined on Wednesday (14 December) as it appears that she, along with Ashanti and Kwali, successfully made a small kill; a sub-adult wildebeest.  The trio was first seen walking along the road in Treetops, all with plump bellies and pink faces.  Investigating the area the girls were leaving from we came across Phyre, Narnia, Kenge, Milo and AT1 at the remains of the carcass all excitedly eating.  Getting a little too excited AT1 attempted to take the same piece of meat as Narnia and was quickly put in her place by her close pride member with a swipe to the face. As usual Milo made his presence felt and mealtime was unfortunately halted for Kenge, Narnia and AT1 whilst the boss moved in for his sitting.

By Thursday (15 December) the casualties rose with two zebra falling victim to the pride.  Kenge and Narnia were the first to strike early in the morning in Serengeti East and were found leisurely tucking into the meal.  Perhaps the arrival of Milo made them wish they had eaten more quickly as once he got his paws on the girls’ prize he sat selfishly guarding it for the remainder of the day, even using it as a pillow to rest his majestic mane!  Mid–afternoon and Nala and, surprisingly, AT1 captured the second unlucky zebra in the long grass of Hwange.  Could it be that AT1 was involved in her first ever grown-up hunt?  The pair, lucky that Milo cannot possibly be in two places at once, were able to enjoy their meal peacefully and in their own time.  However, further away in Etosha sat unsuspecting Ashanti, Phyre and Kwali, all oblivious to the feasts they were missing.

Friday (16 December) and the pride spent the whole day resting.  Ashanti, Kwali and Phyre at yesterday afternoon’s zebra carcass were a pleasant sight as it would seem that the trio finally made it to join Nala and AT1 to get their share of dinner.  Further away from the pride Kenge looked on as her playful cubs passed the time away.

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