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!

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Is that a snake? *#&%! YES!

1 03 2011

 

We caught up with the girls in the Masai Mara area today, basking in the sun and reaffirming social bonds with some intense grooming sessions.

Kenge appears to have moved her den some 40m to another well hidden thicket, while Milo spent most of the day loitering around the Camp area alone.   We are a bit concerned about Athena.  Over the last couple of days she has been around, including spending some time with Kenge; even staying with Kenge’s cubs when their mother went off to stretch her legs for a bit.  That in itself is normal, however our research team has noted that she seems restless, often moving off before returning to the pride.  Of course this restlesness could be due to the fact that she is interested in Kenge’s litter as well as this private female is having to put up with the comings and goings of the whole pride near her den site since the more amenable Kenge moved her den to a site very close to Athena.

Its a big learning experience for our new mothers as well as for our research team observing the first cubs born in a wild environment within the program.  And, as we have said many times before, survival rates of first litters is low.  All we can do it wait and see.

Its not just the lions that are having to deal with everything that comes with living in a natural environment.  Our research team was on their way to track the lions in the afternoon, and had a bit of a shock to say the least when the driver spotted a 3m cobra slithering away by the tyre and potentially slithering up into the vehicle – don’t forget, no speedy exit is possible due to the presence of lions all around!

Never a dull moment in Ngamo!








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