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.


The social life of AT1

17 02 2012

At nearly 13 months old young AT1 is a well-established member of the Ngamo pride, but who does she appear to be closest to?  And what does she make of these youngsters running around the place?

Sometimes AT1 can be found with the adults

And sometimes with the cubs

We took a look at who her nearest neighbour has been when the pride is observed since the beginning of the year.  Dad is obviously a little daunting for AT1 and he ranks lowest of the adults as the lion she is most likely to be closest to.  She is also clearly avoiding the current mothers of the group (Ashanti and Kenge) who at this time are highly protective of their cubs, and occasionally very grouchy, especially when they have sharp teeth clamped to their teats.  Former favourite Narnia has dropped down the list below aunt Kwali.  In second place is Nala with Phyre her most frequent nearest neighbour. AT1 has clearly understood which side her bread is buttered and is sticking close to the alpha female of the pride, although that situation is likely to change when Phyre too becomes a mother (expected) in the near future.  This pattern is also mirrored when looking at which lions AT1 greets most often.  As for which lions greet AT1; its Narnia, a lowly lion in the pecking order of the Ngamo pride, that most frequently greets our young lioness.

And there is clear favouritism between AT1 and the other cubs of the pride as well.  The interactions between AT1 and KE4 and AS4 are few and far between, although both will occasionally entice a play bout.  Young male AS5 comes second, but is least likely of the four cubs to start a play session with AT1, preferring to tackle smaller adversaries.

AT1 and KE3 however seem to have a little love affair going on.  AT1 is found with KE3 as her nearest neighbour more than the combined number of times she is found nearest any other cub.  And the number of social interactions between the pair are double than those with any other.

Occasionally it can all get a bit much, especially when the youngest members of the pride come in numbers.

And so, like any young lady, our precious AT1 finds a quiet spot away from all the others: just to be on her own with her thoughts (probably about what is for dinner)


17 01 2012


On 10th January Phyre, Kwali, Nala, Narnia, Ashanti, AT1, KE, KE3 and KE4 were all resting in Etosha.  Our researcher was disappointed to see Ashanti present again with the group as for the past few days she has been spending a lot of time with the pride, causing concern about the amount of time she is absent from her cubs in their den.  Hopefully she is returning to her den outside of our research hours, or during the night to feed her young.  Kenge, appearing to be a slightly more attentive mother, was resting nearby with KE3 and KE4 and the cubs suckled from Ashanti occasionally giving Kenge a bit of a break.

The pride spent the whole day lazing about except, that is, for KE3 and KE4 who were trying to get AT1 to join in with passing the time as the adults slept.  AT1 looked unsure of what to do as the cubs clambered over her and ran through her legs and she tried to pick up one of the pesky playmates in her mouth before they got away. Clearly uncomfortable with the whole situation, AT1 moved and sat a few metres away from them and let them continue making their own fun.  As the evening arrived the lions slowly started to wake.  Kenge stood up and began walking and slowly, one by one, the others followed.  Milo stayed behind for a few moments with his cubs but then shortly caught up with everyone.

The pride crossed the width of the site travelling though Serengeti East and Hwange before finally stopping in The Valley.  We were intrigued as to the reason for their long walk, perhaps they were hunting or looking for something, but when they finally came to rest it seemed that there was no obvious reason for the procession.  It could be that they were patrolling their territory or perhaps they just simply fancied a nice evening stroll but on this occasion it seems only the lions will know. 

The next day (11th January), following their long walk from the previous day, Phyre, Kwali, Nala, Narnia, AT1, Kenge, KE3&4 and Milo had all returned to Etosha.  At first sighting of the lions we were relieved to see that Ashanti was not present suggesting that she was at her den looking after her cubs but when we caught a glimpse of her in the long grass worry began to set in. But the worry was to be short-lived as right beside her were her two cubs; fit, healthy and suckling mum. 

AS4 and AS5 played alongside KE3 and KE4 even managing to hold their own when Kenge’s cubs, being that little bit bigger, threw their miniature weight around and forced the pride’s newest members into play fighting.  However it seems that Ashanti’s two cubs may not be the newest additions to the Ngamo pride for very long because, as suspected, Phyre is indeed pregnant, estimating that she may give birth in mid-February.  The Ngamo release site is soon to become the Ngamo crèche! 

As the day drew on and Ashanti had returned her cubs to their den, KE3 and KE4 moved on to AT1 for their entertainment.  Playing with AT1’s tail, much to her annoyance, she slapped at KE4….who bravely slapped her back! Meanwhile KE3 practiced her early hunting tactics by ‘stalking’ Kwali when she was not looking.  However KE3 was not as daring as KE4 and when she reached Kwali she merely gave her a friendly head rub. Not to worry, she has plenty of time yet.

By Thursday (12th January) the lions were beginning to get rather hungry, having last eaten 6 days ago.  After spending the majority of their day resting in Kruger on their favourite anthill, Phyre, Ashanti, Kwali, Kenge, Nala, Narnia, AT1 and Milo all made their way towards waterhole 1.  It wasn’t too long before they were running and we followed quickly behind them to find out the source of the excitement.  It was impala, grazing in Masai Mara.  Unfortunately before the lions could plan their attack something spooked the impala and they ran off in the direction of Serengeti West.  The pride, a bit perplexed at their chance of a meal escaping them continued to sit in Masai Mara which is where we left them for the day, hoping they may be more successful through the night. 

When AT1 met KE4 (you get KT5?)

14 01 2012

On Thursday (5 January) morning, as Milo wandered along Route 66, Phyre, Nala and AT1 were taking it easy relaxing in Serengeti East.  The hot weather was obviously taking its toll on the lions as they remained there all day long.  Nala however, always on the alert for a good hunt, mustered up the energy for a brief moment and stalked impala that were grazing in the near distance.  Having only relaxation on their minds, Phyre and AT1 continued to sleep through the whole episode and soon Nala returned to join them, giving up on breakfast. 

The next morning, Friday (6 January,) Nala roamed alone in Etosha, appearing to look lost.  It wasn’t too long before she met up with Narnia and unfortunately for Nala it appeared as if she may have missed out on a good meal as her sister rested in the shade with a very large belly.  On searching the site we eventually found what we expected in the dense woodland area of Treetops; a zebra kill currently being finished off by Milo with Ashanti waiting patiently in the wings.  Close by, resting under a bush near waterhole 3 lay a rather rotund Kenge with two tubby cubs confirming that they too had enjoyed a long-awaited meal.  By midday we had also spotted Phyre, Kwali and AT1 resting in Treetops with full bellies leaving only unlucky Nala missing out on the feast.  As the day drew in Kenge, who had now been joined by Ashanti, remained in her shady spot with KE3 and KE4.  A thirsty AT1 making her way to waterhole 3 passed them by, and on her return stopped inquisitively and watched KE3 and KE4 suckling mum.  As AT1 curiously approached Kenge, a similarly curious KE4 moved towards AT1 and greeted her with a mini head rub.  Excited by the possibility of a playmate KE4 attempted to play with AT1 but the young lioness seemed taken aback by the little lion and she moved away and sat nearby continuing to watch as KE3 and KE4 played together.  As Ashanti rose to her feet, so too did AT1 and the pair, leaving Kenge and her cubs resting, made their way towards Leopard Tree as the sun began to set.

On Saturday (7 January), after a very long search of the site we eventually came across Milo, Kenge and their cubs lying hidden in the shade of a tree in Etosha.  The very hot weather was obviously having no effect on KE3 and KE4 as they played together, even engaging in stalks and pounces on each other!  Seeing Milo resting nearby was just too much to resist and they approached their sleepy dad and attempted to include him in their fun.  But the grumpy male was in no mood for games and after a few warning snarls he, only gently, patted KE4 down with his paw leaving her startled for a moment.   KE3, not risking the same scolding, moved away from Milo and instead amused herself by playing with a stick.  Not too far away, also in Etosha, Phyre, Ashanti, Nala, Narnia, Kwali and AT1 all spent their afternoon lazing about in the hot sunshine, only moving to find themselves a cool shady spot to see out the day. 

A quiet start to the new year

11 01 2012

The New Year in Ngamo began with Nala and Narnia fast asleep in Etosha as Kenge and her cubs were resting in Serengeti East. It wasn’t long before Phyre arrived and as she drank KE3 and KE4 curiously followed her and watched the her quench her thirst.  Not being too keen on having an audience Phyre growled as she drank and the startled cubs returned to mum’s side where they watched from afar as Phyre took rest in some shade. 

The 2nd January was a very quiet day with the morning finding Narnia, Phyre, Ashanti, Kenge, Kwali and AT1 all resting in Etosha.  Milo and Nala, who were out for a bit of a morning stroll, later joined their fellow pride mates to see the day draw in.  The pride rested together in Etosha for most of the day and as the sun began to set they once again took to their paws and wandered along the boundary road towards Treetops.  AT1, playful and curious, livened up her evening walk by stalking guinea fowl along the way, distracting her and causing her to have to run to catch up with the rest of her pride. 

On Tuesday (3 January) morning we found Ashanti, her cubs and Kwali resting in the shade of a tree on the increasingly popular High Street South in Serengeti East.  Shortly after 7am AT1 was spotted in the long grass just behind the tree where Ashanti and Kwali lay.  After watching Ashanti’s cubs suckle from mum AT1 perhaps sensed that this was not the time for introductions and she made her way into the long grass out of sight.  By lunchtime Kenge and her two cubs had arrived and the idyllic spot at which they were resting was beginning to look like a crèche!  It was a beautiful sight as Ashanti and Kenge together with their respective cubs slept through the hottest part of the day. After their midday catnap; and while Ashanti was grooming her cub and Kenge’s cubs were suckling from her, Phyre and Narnia arrived. They too sensed that Ashanti would prefer some space and so after taking a drink from the small natural stream that runs through the rocks Phyre and Narnia sat in the shade looking on at Ashanti and her young.  Soon afterwards Nala and AT1 appeared and joined Narnia and Phyre in their shady spot. Narnia, seeing that Phyre and AT1 had the best spot under the tree, tried to squeeze in between the pair, much to Phyre’s audible annoyance.

By Wednesday (4th  Jan) it had been five days since the pride had made a significant kill, that of a wildebeest, and everyone was starting to get a bit peckish. Phyre, who was resting in Etosha with Ashanti and Kwali, spent most of her day watching birds, impala and even giraffe that were grazing in the treetops in neighboring land.  Kenge too, having some time away from her cubs, also seemed to be looking for something to eat and stalked zebra that were passing through Serengeti East.  Perhaps Kenge’s hunger level had not quite reached its peak, as the zebra passed by her as close as 20 metres without her making any attempt to chase.  Or perhaps it could just be that two energetic young lions are expending most of her energy and she decided that she would leave it to someone else to capture her next meal for her. 

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.

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