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!


Snakes, scraps and close scrapes

15 03 2011

We joined up with the pride in the Valley area today (13th March) bellies up and paws limp with satisfaction. As we approached the sleeping lions, dodging the various anatomy of the unlucky zebra discarded all over the immediate area we accounted for all the pride members; including Kenge and Athena – all full to the brim. Whilst our females caught up on their beauty sleep Milo gnawed away upon the last scraps of meat on the zebra head.

We returned later in the afternoon to take a bi-monthly game count. This helps our research team to establish any kills that have been made whilst the team are absent from the site and where the lions have left the kill site before we see them again.   We found one group of zebra mixed with some impala around the Tree Tops area that were looking rather anxious.  We slowly headed down to hopefully find the pride still resting up in the Valley but signal indicated otherwise. It appeared the girls were on the move…towards the zebra…

We headed through the Valley and quickly past Leopard Tree avoiding low hanging branches and raced back to Tree Tops. With no zebra or lionesses to be seen once there our researcher pulled out the telemetry in an attempt to obtain a direction. Fortunately our sharp eyed volunteer spotted 3 pairs of ears pricked up underneath a thicket. Through our binos we observed Kwali and Nala appearing to be very vigilant compared to their normal midday day activity of sleeping. Both were also panting excessively; had we missed a chase?

We left the females in peace and headed off to continue our game count. After numerous impala, some steenbok and some zebra our driver spotted something a little unsuspected upon our count. Slithering along the fence was a HUGE rock python reaching over 3m. A fine specimen of a reptile, but also a formidable threat to our 5 new cubs.

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