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.


After days of lying around the Ngamo pride get peckish

19 12 2011

Following a period of lazy days and sleeping the past week in Ngamo has been one of bloodshed.

Tuesday (13 December) was perhaps the build-up to the killing spree as Nala locked her hunting instincts on a baby impala that had dangerously strayed too far away from its mother, and who were now separated from each other by a group of hungry lions.  It was a nail-biting episode for our researcher and volunteers as they watched nervously as Nala stalked the tiny antelope.  To Nala’s disappointment, baby impala can very fast and managed to out-run her following a lengthy chase.

Nala’s embarrassment of missing out on the impala yesterday could quite possibly have made her more determined on Wednesday (14 December) as it appears that she, along with Ashanti and Kwali, successfully made a small kill; a sub-adult wildebeest.  The trio was first seen walking along the road in Treetops, all with plump bellies and pink faces.  Investigating the area the girls were leaving from we came across Phyre, Narnia, Kenge, Milo and AT1 at the remains of the carcass all excitedly eating.  Getting a little too excited AT1 attempted to take the same piece of meat as Narnia and was quickly put in her place by her close pride member with a swipe to the face. As usual Milo made his presence felt and mealtime was unfortunately halted for Kenge, Narnia and AT1 whilst the boss moved in for his sitting.

By Thursday (15 December) the casualties rose with two zebra falling victim to the pride.  Kenge and Narnia were the first to strike early in the morning in Serengeti East and were found leisurely tucking into the meal.  Perhaps the arrival of Milo made them wish they had eaten more quickly as once he got his paws on the girls’ prize he sat selfishly guarding it for the remainder of the day, even using it as a pillow to rest his majestic mane!  Mid–afternoon and Nala and, surprisingly, AT1 captured the second unlucky zebra in the long grass of Hwange.  Could it be that AT1 was involved in her first ever grown-up hunt?  The pair, lucky that Milo cannot possibly be in two places at once, were able to enjoy their meal peacefully and in their own time.  However, further away in Etosha sat unsuspecting Ashanti, Phyre and Kwali, all oblivious to the feasts they were missing.

Friday (16 December) and the pride spent the whole day resting.  Ashanti, Kwali and Phyre at yesterday afternoon’s zebra carcass were a pleasant sight as it would seem that the trio finally made it to join Nala and AT1 to get their share of dinner.  Further away from the pride Kenge looked on as her playful cubs passed the time away.

Sisters can do it for themselves

14 12 2011

A brief sighting of Kenge with her cubs at waterhole 1 on Saturday (10th December) morning was a delightful start to the weekend.  Although KE3 and KE4 are very wary of our research vehicle we were lucky enough to be able to watch for a short while as they ran around mum and hid behind her, before we moved on to find the rest of the pride.  We found them, including Ashanti, in Masai Mara.  Ashanti had left her cubs in the safety of their den while she came out to hunt, along with Kwali, Nala and Narnia.  The lionesses patiently stalked wildebeest for almost half an hour before giving an exciting chase.  Ashanti, who managed to get within 10 metres of the wildebeest, could not manage to keep up and the targeted wildebeest escaped to rejoin the rest of it’s herd.  Unfortunately however the pride would have to go hungry for another day as even the best stalking and flanking tactics demonstrated by Ashanti, Nala and Kwali were fruitless.

Nala and Narnia’s determination for a good meal finally paid off and on Sunday (11th December).  The sisters took matters into their own paws and left the pride for a spot of mid-afternoon hunting.  Proving that sisters really can do it for themselves the duo successfully caught and killed an adult wildebeest that had been wandering around the long grassy area of Treetops.  The girls managed to eat for around half an hour before Milo arrived and joined them at their reward.

After 20 minutes or so the bossy male decided that he was no longer prepared to share and dragged the carcass away into a bush, leaving Nala and Narnia with nothing to do but watch.  There he sat, guarding it closely and frequently rising to chase the girls away, reminding them not to get too close.

Monday (12th December) morning, appearing to be either stubborn or simply lazy, Milo was resting in Treetops in the very spot he dragged yesterday’s wildebeest kill.  Phyre, Ashanti, Kwali, Kenge and AT1 all reassuringly looked to have eaten too so we presume Milo must have shared his stolen meal at some time during the night.  Young AT1, tired with a full belly, flopped on top of sleeping Phyre who growled at her continuously until she moved.  AT1 begrudgingly sloped off and rested beside her for the remainder of the afternoon along with Kenge, Nala and Narnia.

Film: Ngamo wildebeest hunt

8 12 2011

Note: Film is a combination of footage from more than one hunt

Milo’s favourite: AT1 vs Phyre

2 12 2011

Arrival into Ngamo on Thursday (24 November) found the pride resting close to waterhole 2.  Our researcher noticed a dead impala (natural causes) at the base of a nearby tree and sat willing the pride members to notice it too.  After a while Nala eventually spotted it and went to investigate.  A curious AT1 watched Nala and very slowly began to stalk towards her.  That is, until Kwali spotted the impala too, and as she approached  AT1 decided to try and beat her to it and quickly ran towards their conveniently found breakfast.  Milo heard the hungry lions and he too came to investigate what was going on.  He dominantly chased Nala and Kwali away from their food but a stubborn little AT1 stood her ground and continued to eat.   Nala, not being phased by Milo’s bossy ways, soon had bigger things on her mind and she and sister Narnia chased after wildebeest, albeit unsuccessfully.   After having a break from eating a cheeky AT1 tried to re-approach the carcass as Phyre, Milo’s favourite lady of the moment, was taking her share and he swiped at his daughter putting her firmly in her place. It seems AT1 can only get away with so much!

Friday’s (25 November) first sighting of Nala and AT1 with pink chins and huge bellies could only have meant one thing; one less wildebeest and our researcher’s suspicions were confirmed when Kwali was found in Kruger near to Route 66 getting her fill of the latest kill.  Kenge, who also appeared to have eaten, rested with the group for a while before returning to her den.  With two young mouths to feed this is reassuring to know as she needs to remain strong.

Saturday (26 November) morning and the pride are up and about and wandering around Kruger.  They walked almost the whole length of the site, exploring as they went, pausing occasionally to rest in Treetops and again in Hwange before finally coming to a stop in Serengeti East.  Their tour of the site must have left them quite tired because the rest of the day was spent resting in Amboseli .

The following few days the pride continued as normal, laying under trees avoiding the sun and saving their energy for their next hunt.   Tuesday (29 November 2011) brought a surprise pride member out hunting;  Ashanti, who was spotted in the distance in Serengeti East stalking wildebeest along with Kwali.  The pair were unlucky this time and what must be a hungry Ashanti made her way back to her den followed by the rest of the pride where, proving a strong social bond, they remained until Wednesday (30 November).

Lion cubs at play

24 11 2011

Arrival in Ngamo on Saturday morning (19 Nov) finds most of the pride resting in Treetops, all with huge bellies and bloodstained faces suggesting they have eaten well in the early hours of the morning.  Kwali was found eating the little that remained of the zebra, that is until Milo arrived and she had to give up her space and let him eat.   As the heat of the day made it’s way in, the pride moved to rest in what seems to be one of their favourite spots between Kruger and Treetops where they remained for most of the day.  A walk to waterhole 3 in the afternoon turned out to be quite a get-together as new mothers Kenge and Ashanti both take some time away from their offspring to socialise with their fellow pride members.

Sunday (20 Nov), and AT1 turns 10 months old! Her developing confidence is becoming more noticeable as she more regularly sits further away from the other pride members and often goes missing for large parts of the day, perhaps resting with Ashanti at her den or off on a mini adventure of her own.  However she always rejoins the group by early evening resulting in lots of excited greetings and play activity with her two favourite playmates of the moment, Nala and Narnia.

On Wednesday morning, after two rainy days, the pride are quite active and they walk almost the entire length of the site, perhaps with hunting on their minds.  Returning to the lions in the afternoon confirms the suspicion about the pride being hungry as our researcher finds Milo eating a recently killed wildebeest and the whole pride, minus Ashanti, all resting in Etosha with full bellies.  As Milo continues to eat, nearby Kenge calls and walks into the long grass.  She re-emerges with her two bundles of joy, audibly calling back to mum.  Kenge rests near to Milo as he eats and KE3 and KE4 begin suckling.  Nala, Narnia, Phyre, Kwali and AT1 don’t appear to share in the excitement of their arrival, barely raising their heads as the cubs wander around in the long grass.  As Milo lets out a roar a surprised KE3 stopped suddenly, stared wide-eyed at dad in clear surprise at the noise he is making, before turning and toddling off into the long grass for safety.  Kenge is proving she is an excellent mother being extremely attentive and not taking her eyes or ears away from her young cubs for a moment.

Peace returns to the Ngamo pride

29 10 2011

Following on from the decision to move Athena from the Ngamo pride on 26 October, we are pleased to announce that she has settled in well at Antelope Park’s breeding program.  We were initially concerned that she may become highly stressed without having AT1 around or being with the rest of the Ngamo pride, but it appears she has actually taken a liking to the male in the enclosure next to her.  Additionally, we were worried that AT1 would be distressed without her mother present, but this anxiety was quickly washed away when we saw AT1 with Milo, Phyre and Kwali early on Thursday (27 October).  She was sat next to Phyre, who appears to have taken AT1 under her wing.  It could be that the loss of her own cubs has made her more maternal towards AT1.  Phyre is normally a very grumpy female and has been especially intolerant of AT1’s playful advances, but throughout Thursday she was spotted greeting her and sitting with her.  At one point in the heat of the day, Phyre tried hiding in the stump of a tree and amused the researchers greatly by squashing her face in between part of the tree trunks.  It did not look a comfortable place to sleep!

Later on in the day, AT1 went to go hang out with easy-going Kwali and they slept peacefully next to each other during the hottest part of the day.  By evening, Narnia and Nala had killed a wildebeest in Etosha – frustratingly enough, we heard the wildebeest call from behind us but by the time we got there, the professional hunting team of lionesses had already exacted their supreme skill on the wildebeest.  It wasn’t long until the rest of the pride joined, with AT1 following on behind Kwali.  The lions ate greedily, ripping the carcass to shreds and running off with parts of the flesh.  AT1, as always was quite able to hold her own and munch away happily.

By Friday (28 October), most of the pride were found in Etosha with hugely extended bellies.  They had obviously consumed the entire wildebeest from the day before, as well as killing a zebra that night in Kruger.  AT1 was spotted following Narnia round for a large part of the day, who was keen to initiate play with her whenever the sun went behind the clouds, making the heat a bit more tolerable.  By the afternoon session, AT1 and Narnia were slumped under a tree by waterhole three; Phyre, Milo and Kenge approached from Kruger and AT1 jumped up from her sleep, ran towards Phyre and Milo and greeted them with much enthusiasm.  Her newly arranged family have accepted the change well and all lions appear happy and content.  Kenge is returning to a den site where no doubt her two cubs are flourishing.

Readers should note that ALERT accepts that impacts on the behaviour and stress levels of the lions may exist that cannot necessarily be observed.

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