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!


Ribs for mini-Milo

4 02 2012

Thanks to a fairly cool and damp night tracking the Ngamo pride the following morning was a doddle on the 31st. Our researcher and volunteers soon spotted fresh tracks, of all sizes, heading north towards water hole 1 and followed in pursuit. To no surprise we found the whole pride resting next to the lush water hole.

We’ve begun to notice that although crucial to cub development there appears to be some unfair suckling occurring within the little Ngamo crèche. On a daily basis we are observing Ashanti suckling all four cubs, often simultaneously and showing no signs of rebuffing Kenge’s cubs. Kenge on the other hand often puts little AS4 and 5 in their place when attempting to suckle her, and gives priority to her own cubs.

Allo-suckling is just one of the advantages cubs benefit from when within a crèche, however these incidents are more down to cheeky cubs stealing a free meal than a lioness feeling maternal towards the cubs of other mothers. As a result of her willingness to suckle all four cubs often Ashanti has begun to lose weight quite quickly. If she were to lose a drastic amount she would soon stop producing milk leaving her own two younger cubs in quite a predicament.   However, after contemplating this Ashanti and the pride put our researcher’s concerns to rest (yet again) as all were found on a demolished zebra kill on the 1st.  Only Milo, Ashanti, Kenge and cubs were still feeding whilst the others were presumed to have left to go and drink. Whilst Milo huffed and puffed over his meal mini-Milo (AS5) was fully enjoying having ribs for breakfast!

Eventually the pride regrouped by water hole 2 and we were very pleased to see KE3 and 4 have their fill from their own mother.

Monkey-ing around

31 01 2012

We arrived in Ngamo bright and early on the 25th finding Milo fast asleep, as per usual, in Amboseli. After jotting down some coordinates and other data we proceeded along route 66 searching for any signs of the lionesses. Luckily for us we were met with Kenge sprawled out upon the road, surrounded by four sleepy cubs. With no sign of the other females we presumed Kenge had been designated baby-sitter for the morning and was doing a splendid job.

Soon the January rains began to roll in over Ngamo. AS4 and AS5 bounced into the long grass for shelter and were soon followed by KE3 and KE4.

After a good soaking the rain began to ease up and this sent the cubs into a whirlwind of energy. Kenge looked on as AS5 shimmied some 3m up a nearby tree. KE3 soon could not resist the temptation of little AS5’s tail dangling and proceed to clamber up after him for a good tug. This monkey-ing around continued throughout the morning session until all cubs were adequately tired out.

By the afternoon we were struggling to find the rest of the pride. We trawled through Kruger, Tree Tops and the Valley to no avail when suddenly our researcher spotted a flash of gold racing through the undergrowth of Hwange. We soon caught up with the commotion to find Ashanti holding a baby impala between her jaws. AT1 and Kwali were following closely behind but kept a respectable distance from the hungry mother. Ashanti then settled down under a nearby bush and tucked into her well-earned snack. After a mere 10mins it was as if the impala had not even touch the sides! Ashanti moved off after cleaning up any crumbs and left poor AT1 sniffing somberly at the ground.

On the 27th we rolled once again along route 66 this time to find Ashanti with her brood accompanied by Phyre and AT1. Whilst the adults and AT1 slept AS4 and AS5 tumbled around with one another before breaking for breakfast. However Ashanti was not at all impressed with her cub’s brazened approach to suckle and repositioned. It wasn’t long before AS5 announced his protests very loudly and incessantly to this. His efforts however proved most successful and Ashanti rolled onto her back offering a meal for the two cubs.

At lunchtime we thought we were in for the ultimate chase and catch scene. Kwali and Kenge were located by water hole 2 vigilant to a large herd of impala. Kenge appeared to flank left around the water hole into the long grass whilst Kwali held fire in the small thicket some 50m from the herd. After TWO HOURS of watching, poised over binoculars it appeared Kenge might have gotten side tracked with other engagements leaving poor Kwali stuck in the thicket. Although a fantastic huntress there was a good 30m of open space for Kwali to somehow pass through without being seen. Eventually Kwali settled down and the herd began to move off further into Serengeti East.

We returned in the afternoon in high hopes of further hunting but Kwali, obviously fed up with hunting in the midday sun went and settled alongside Ashanti and co. Once again AS4 and AS5 provided some comedy gold for our research team climbing more trees and pulling more tails. It is beginning to seem that AS4 is the most confident and boisterous of the two. She decided to launch an all-mighty attack on her brother. These two youngsters will no doubt be causing more chaos for the pride as they grow more and more confident.

The cubs tuck in

18 01 2012

Friday  13th January certainly was unlucky for some as following yesterday’s uneventful pursuit of impala in Masai Mara, the lions were even more hungry and continuing to hunt without reward.  Phyre, Kwali, AT1, Narnia, Nala and Kenge began the day stalking zebra in Etosha to no avail, and then later, impala that were heading at pace from Kruger towards the lions.   It wasn’t long before we saw the reason the impala were moving so quickly as Milo marched behind them unknowingly driving the impala in the direction of the females.  It could have been a very successful chase if it weren’t for the short grass and sparse shrub cover highlighting the lions’ presence but the impala were soon aware of the danger ahead and changed course.  The lions remained sat down and watched as their potential breakfast passed them by.  By the afternoon the lions’ day had come full circle as, after resting for the most part, they were again watching a herd of both zebra and impala passing through Etosha.  The girls followed the herd into Masai Mara where Narnia took the initiative and began to stalk.  Again, unlucky for Narnia, the zebra ran away followed closely behind by the impala and within seconds they were gone from the advances of one of the pride’s finest hunters.

The pride, perhaps feeling a bit discouraged by the past few days’ near misses, had a day off from hunting and on Saturday (14th January) Nala, Narnia, Ashanti, Phyre, Kwali, AT1, Kenge and her cubs all spent the day lazing in their usual way.  It had now been 8 days since the pride last ate and particularly Ashanti and Kenge both seemed to be irritable.  Ashanti, who is usually more obliging than Kenge to feed cubs that are not her own, snarled at KE3 and KE4 when they approached her to suckle and Kenge, usually a very patient and attentive mother, also snarled and snapped at her youngsters sending them crying and looking for milk.  The two ever-hungry cubs determined not to go without instead made their way towards non-lactating Phyre, but she too growled and rolled over not allowing the two little mouths to latch on to her.  A slightly confused KE3 even approached resident nanny Kwali to suckle, much to Kwali’s bewilderment!

Sunday (15th January) finally brought success! On arrival into the site in the morning we found Milo and AT1 in Amboseli both at a long-awaited zebra kill.  Narnia, Phyre, Kwali, Ashanti, Kenge and their respective cubs were also resting close by, each of them with large contented bellies.  As AT1 munched away at her breakfast dad Milo was doing his usual trick of resting his head on the carcass making sure that no-one approached to eat without his permission.  The whole pride remained at the kill site for the whole day and by the afternoon Milo had finally released his hold on the zebra and the small amount of meat left was now being finished off by Kenge together with hers and Ashanti’s cubs.

Kenge had managed to find herself the jaw bones and as she rasped at the last few scraps so did KE3 and KE4, KE3 even managing to get her little head stuck as she forced her way in for meat.   The four young lions had endless fun chewing and clambering over the bones even entering into battles over the same piece with mini sized growls and slaps!  But Narnia soon put a stop to AS4’s fun as, not being satisfied with her full belly, she crept up behind AS4 and forced her off the bone she was happily making the most of.  What a bully Narnia!

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.

A very Ngamo Christmas

29 12 2011

On entering the site on Saturday (24 December) we met Nala, Narnia and Milo all resting together once again in Kruger.  The two loving sisters, even proving it in their sleep; they amusingly slept side by side in mirror image of each other.  It was a morning of very little activity with the only effort being made by Milo as he walked to waterhole 3 for a drink.  By midday Narnia had left her sister and Milo and had met up with Kenge who was taking a well-earned break from her playful cubs.  Meanwhile Ashanti, Kwali, Phyre and AT1 were spending their Christmas Eve in The Valley.

On Sunday (25 December), in the true spirit of Christmas, the whole pride came together and was all resting in Etosha where they remained for most of the morning.  The only thing missing from their Christmas Day was their Christmas dinner and by early evening Ashanti and Narnia had taken it upon themselves to remedy the situation by stalking a large herd, full of variety, with wildebeest, zebra and impala.  Nala soon awoke and joined her sister and Ashanti in the hunt, instinctively flanking to the left.  Kwali also joined in, followed closely by hunter in training, AT1.  AT1 walked alongside Kwali as she too stalked the array of food ahead of them, stopping occasionally to observe the girls at work.   After a lengthy session of stalking we left the lions with their gazes fixed upon their potential festive feast and wished them all a happy Christmas.

Monday (26 December) morning and yesterday’s hunt must have paid off as four fat lions in the form of Kwali, Nala, Narnia and Phyre were lying about in Treetops.   Our researcher was unable to find the carcass of the unfortunate victim but suspect it may well have been a wildebeest one was “missing” in the site today.  Around midday AT1 waddled from waterhole 3 with blood on her face and a huge belly! Ashanti later joined the group having eaten a good meal too but she soon left her pride members to join her cubs who were tucked up safely in their den.  As the sky clouded over and heavy rain set in Kenge, Kwali, Narnia, Nala, Phyre and AT1 all took what shelter they could in the long grass where they spent the rest of the evening sleeping off their dinner.  It seems that the pride, like many of us at this time of year, may have over-indulged a little!

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