Weaning time for AT1, and she ain’t best pleased about it

14 09 2011

Entering the site on a beautiful summer’s morning on Saturday (10th September) the research team found Nala and Narnia feeding on what appeared to be a steenbok kill.  The majority of the carcass had already been consumed suggesting that they had been hunting during the early hours of the morning.  Milo was with the two sisters but didn’t seem particularly interested in the remains of the kill, nor did he look like he had already fed, suggesting that he had probably only just arrived on the scene.

The team left the three in peace and started to try and locate the other females. After a while searching we eventually found the rest of the pride walking along the boundary road of Etosha.  Nala, Narnia and Milo soon joined them and they all headed towards waterhole three.  There they stopped to rehydrate themselves before settling down to rest under the shady trees.  Whilst resting it appeared as if Nala may have been having nightmares as she kept waking up in a startle and scaring the other dozing members of the pride.

When the team returned in the afternoon the pride was in the middle of a mass social grooming session with practically everybody grooming everybody, except for Milo of course who was still zonked out a few metres away.

Interestingly AT1 was seen attempting to suckle her aunt Ashanti on several occasions, and even had a go with Narnia. Cubs are weaned between the age of six to eight months; and as AT1 is rapidly approaching eight months old it appears that she is trying to push her luck and figure out where else she can get some tasty milk from besides her mother whose supply will now be drying up.  Ashanti is not likely to be producing milk and soon had enough of the pesky youngster (who is sporting a fine set of sharp teeth with which to clamp on to a teat!) and kicked her off. Disgruntled, AT1 returned to her mother and desperately attempted to suckle her instead but after a few minutes Athena had also had enough and gave her a nip on the head to tell her daughter to behave. Clearly AT1 is not happy about having to move to a milk free diet!  Such is life.


A battle royale

26 07 2011

The research team entered the site on Monday morning (25th) to find Milo and Phyre once again battling it out over a fresh impala kill.

The pair, along with Athena and AT1 were located in Masai Mara and it appeared that the argument over who was going to feed first had already been going on for some time. Both Milo and Phyre were lying on top of the carcass, more concerned about growling and snarling at each other than actually feeding. Phyre seems to be the only female that will challenge Milo over food and once again it looked like she wasn’t going to give up until she got what she wanted.

Athena and AT1 were too preoccupied with their own game of chase to take any notice of the scuffle and slowly moved off towards water hole one.  Who actually made the kill is unknown, although it is somewhat less likely to have been either of the lions currently fighting over it.

The team left Milo and Phyre to it and continued to look for the rest of the pride. After a short search they found them in Tree Tops.  As they drove closer it was apparent that Nala and Narnia were also feeding on a fresh kill, this time a steenbok. The two females quickly devoured the kill whilst Ashanti, Kwali and Kenge rested nearby.  These smaller antelope are much more agile and harder to catch than the zebra, therefore better hunting techniques are needed.

On the way out of the site the team stopped to check on the progress of Milo and Phyre’s battle and were not surprised to find it still hadn’t been resolved. Both lions were still lying over the carcass, attempting to take a crafty bite of meat in between the growls and the snarls. Clearly sharing is not a concept that Milo or Phyre understand!


13 07 2011

As the wind howled and the rain drizzled on Monday morning, our team set out in to the release site hoping that time spent with the lions would make up for the weather. And they certainly weren’t disappointed.

Shortly after entering the site they came across Milo wondering along the boundary fence in Tree Tops. He met up with Phyre, Kwali, Nala, Narnia and Ashanti and they proceeded to head in to the grass.

No more than five minutes had passed when the females began stalking. Kwali silently closed in on a steenbok, no more than 8 metres away from her. Nala and Narnia followed and Ashanti started to flank to the left. Within seconds Kwali was chasing the small antelope (around 10kg); and heading in our direction! A fast moving Kwali knocked it off it’s feet and Nala and Narnia were soon on the case, grabbing hold of the prey and pulling it to the ground. Ashanti moved in and the girls settled down the feed alongside Phyre, all this taking place just a few metres away from our researchers!

However the girls had barely taken a few mouthfuls before Milo arrived on the scene. He laid claim to the prize and chased away the females. Well, all but Phyre who wasn’t giving up so easily and lay on top of the carcass alongside Milo growling and snarling.  Neither seemed willing to give up and the two of them lay there in the same position for the next hour and a half, barely eating but defending what they each wanted.

Regular readers of our blog will know that Phyre, much like Milo, takes little part in hunting but always gets her share of the efforts of others.  This is a common survival strategy by some female lions within prides, and a well known strategy of males.

The dispute must have eventually been settled however, as when our researchers investigated the scene during the mid morning session all that remained of the kill was part of one leg.

After being pushed off the kill, the other girls moved off to waterhole three and made do with the remains of an old zebra kill. Nala and Narnia seemed quite content to munch on the head whilst the others eyed up some impala that were feeding not too far away.

and not forgetting…

7 05 2011

Our research team is feeling a tad guilty. It would seem our blogs have been rather unfairly focused upon a certain little cub and her mother recently, whilst neglecting Ngamo’s other important members….

So we thought we would focus our attentions on the recent happenings of our other lions in hope they will forgive our biases!

Towards the end of April the Ngamo pride were giving the impala a very hard time indeed with plenty of successful hunts.  And their hunting efforts are certainly not fading with fantastic displays of team work being observed almost daily!

On the 1st May we crept behind Athena and Narnia along Forest South Drive road into the Valley area. To our right we watched with bated breath as Kenge glided through the grass, intently focused.  Suddenly in the distance we saw a flash of amber-impala! They darted across the road into the Hwange area with an unknown lioness on their case. We lost visual of the others and silence fell upon the bush. Yet a rustle from a nearby thicket was quickly followed by a fleeing steenbok.  Some drawn out moments later and Phyre appeared lumbering through the grass and collapsing in the road, her steenbok antics obviously becoming too strenuous in the midday heat.

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.

Phyre catches breakfast…

5 03 2011

We detected very weak signal for the Ngamo pride early in the morning (4th Mar) as we drove in to the site.  We passed by water hole 2 before trying to track them down to check up on mums Athena and Kenge.  Signal indicated Kenge was still cooped up with her little ones, whilst Athena appeared to be mobile.

We decided to head down towards the Serengeti East area following bleeps from the telemetry when suddenly our volunteer spotted Phyre burst out from the tall grass with the rest of the pride hot on her tail. We quickly stepped on the gas to catch up and found Phyre holding her ground whilst also holding a male Steenbok between her teeth!  We had obviously just missed the hunt and kill as the little antelope appeared to have only just been disemboweled. Phyre is not known for her hunting prowess so it is good to see that she is getting more involved in this aspect of pride life.

Using her size and aggressive nature to her best advantage, Phyre walked off with her prized breakfast to enjoy alone whilst the others, including Milo (!!!) sat back and waited patiently. Eventually Ashanti grew impatient and managed to rip away half the kill for herself and to tease Milo with. Nala and Narnia managed to grab a scrap or two from the commotion, Narnia happily strolling away with the scalp and horns! Unfortunately being the smallest antelope species we have in Ngamo there wasn’t much left to go around for the rest of the lions, including Athena who had just joined the group.

Eventually with a few bellies still grumbling the pride left the dinner table to go sleep off the excitement for the rest of the day.’

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