I have some friends with me at the moment from Guruve Ltd – ethical promoters of African art. Having been to Africa for 12 years, Tim hasn’t ever seen a lion! So, as you know, I am running a lion project here as well as the wild dog project, and have a few collars left to go on, so we gave it a go with Tim & Emma to see if we would be lucky.
We set up a bait in the very south west corner of Chishakwe Ranch – where the wild dog project is based. We had a great scout, Witness, with us, who had seen lion tracks in the area the day before, not far from a lovely little dam. So we set everything up and started calling….
After about 1 and a half hours we had had no response other than a peacefully browsing herd of eles in the background, but just then, in answer to a lion roar that I had been playing over the loud speakers, the bush erupted in a roaring duet from either side of the car! That woke everyone up!
The first group of lions that came in looked like 3 adult females but we couldnt see them very well as they stayed well in the background, showing no interest in the bait.
After another half an hour or so of trying to bring them in, we were just discussing whether to pack up for the night when we saw one of the females (or possibly a new female) come out of the bushes with a young adult male with her. Although she was still wary, the presence of the male emboldened her and after a while she came up and started feeding on the bait. Tim and Emma were both hugely excited – finally a proper sighting of a wild African lion – albeit an eerily red one in the red-filtered spotlight!
But we don’t do things by halves here (:)) so after a few minutes of watching the lioness I darted her so that we could collar her. The dart hit well and she went to sleep not far from the bait, which was great. The collaring went well and we were pleased to note she was a very healthy lioness who appeared to be quite heavily pregnant.
The reason we are collaring these lions is for part of a conservation-research project; to try and determine the impact of different hunting strategies on lion demographics and behavior, and also to try and reduce some of the human-lion conflict occurring on our boundary areas.
So, Chishakwe is clearly the pace to be for some excitement – and Tim and Emma were thrilled with experience!