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Dollar Block: The Continuing Story of a Release Pride


David Youldon

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Sunday 4th May 2008

At 0615h this morning Kenge, Phyre and Ashanti are chilling by the northern water pan. A few minutes later Nala and Narnia approach the pan walking up north from the centre road. They stop from a drink. Athena is nowhere to be seen, but the other five lionesses rest close to each other.

At 0704h Nala follows Narnia back down the centre road and they lead us straight to Athena, and a wildebeest kill. From the evidence seen (the size of Athena’s stomach, the amount of meat that has already been eaten, the freshness of the meat, the vultures who are already around etc) we suspect the kill was made yesterday morning.

By the evening Phyre, Ashanti and Kenge are still resting by the north water pan. Narnia is leading Nala and Athena south along the Western Road and soon settle down in a spot to sleep. When we went back to check Athena’s kill that they have left we found that only a few bones remained.

Monday 5th May 2008

0647h Kenge, Phyre and Ashanti have not moved. By 0810h they have walked 400m south into a thick area of bush and settle down to sleep again.

Narnia, Nala and Athena are chilling on the Centre Road by 1750h and they are starting to wake and get lively as the sun sets and darkness encompasses our release site. By 1900h they have made their way to the Eland Vlei where they lay down to sleep for the night.

Tuesday 6th May 2008

As we approach the eland vlei at 0423h we find all 6 lions together; they are playful and sociable. Nala and Narnia are spending a lot of time loving each other and a long time playing with each other. By 0700h all 6 have settled down for another nap, and are seen again at midday in the same place.

They still hadn’t moved by evening but all come to the water pan to drink. We observed them playing for an hour or so until Ashanti, Phyre and Kenge leave the area. We sat and watched in the darkness as they stalked something (presumed an impala but we couldn’t properly see) for a few minutes. As they were doing this they were quickly joined by Nala, Narnia and Athena, who came running along the boundary to join them. Once they had finished stalking (which did not evolve into a chase) all 6 walked together northwards through the bush and out of sight.

Wednesday 7th May 2008

By 0524h Ashanti is seen back at the eland vlei and radio collar signals indicate that Kenge & Phyre are nearby, although the long grass means that we cannot see them. We find the other three about 200 metres further north. At 0612h Athena leads Nala and then Narnia north through the bush and we lose sight of them. By 0708h all six girls have made it back together again and are sitting together being sociable., Narnia, is becoming increasingly the most sociable cat.

However, they do not stay together for very long and Athena leads Nala & Narnia towards the east, and Ashanti leads Phyre & Kenge north. Shortly before 0800h a flock of guinea fowl appear on the road 15m away from Ashanti, Kenge and Phyre. Kenge and Ashanti make a half hearted attempt to stalk them but Phyre hasn’t even seen them and is playing with some grass.

That evening Nala is seen leading her sister and Athena southwards toward the Eland Vlei. We find Ashanti, Phyre and Kenge along the centre road and witness them stalking some wildebeest. They are unsuccesful this time.

Thursday 8th May 2008

We find Kenge, Phyre and Athena at 0635h this morning in the same area as we saw them stalking the wildebeest the previous day. They spend some time walking through the bush and finally settle on the centre Vlei under some thick trees in mopane woodland area.

Athena Nala and Narnia are not seen all morning.

At 1818h that evening though all 6 lions on the centre road, but soon the pride splits when Nala, Narnia and Athena wander off through the bush in an easterly direction, and Phyre, Ashanti and Kenge slowly make their way south.

At 1904h, as we are leaving the site, a lion is seen in the distance stalking a wildebeest on the Eland Vlei. Not wanting to disturb a chase and a potential kill, we promptly leave the site so were not able to identify the lion, however we are sure that the lion spotted was not wearing a collar and so Nala, Narnia and Athena are the main suspects.

Friday 9th May 2008

At 0550h this morning all 6 girls are found relaxing at the Eland Vlei. Although Nala, Narnia and Athena seem to be lazy and lethargic, Phyre, Ashanti and Kenge are in a playful mood. While they are enjoying stalking, ankle-tapping and wrestling with each other, Athena, Narnia and her sister only occasionally glance up to watch their antics without much interest. It appears that the prey response we caught a glimpse of last night had turned out to be unsuccessful as there was no sign of blood on any of the girls nor fatter bellies from a feed.

After a while, Phyre decides a slight change of scenery is needed and leads the group west. All 5 other girls soon follow. This is interesting as we do not usually see Phyre showing signs of leadership. From our studies, we have noted that more often that not, Ashanti takes the lead when members of the group move throughout the site, and Phyre is usually comfortable falling in somewhere behind.

While Phyre, Ashanti and Kenge settle themselves down some distance away for a well-earned post-play rest, the remaining 3 girls continue on walking west, however they soon returned to rejoin the others. When they returned it was their turn to be a little more active. Nala and Narnia showed some sisterly love with head-rubbing before Narnia soon caught Kenge up in a friendly play-fight. However playtime was cut short when Kenge showed aggression towards Nala; Kenge has often been noted to have a short temper with Nala, a young and playful female. During the morning, Kenge was also involved in more aggression but this time it was Ashanti who initiated it after a play-fight between the two of them was deemed to have been taken too far.

Saturday 10th May 2008

We arrive at the site at 06:23 to find 5 of the 6 girls gathered round a wildebeest kill!! The last feed we know any of the girls had was from the wildebeest caught on the 3rd of May- a week ago- so it is good to see they have made another kill and now have the chance to get all fat, lazy and full again. We estimate the kill to have been made from between midnight and dawn. Phyre, Ashanti, Kenge, Nala and Athena were all in attendance when we arrived but we have no way of knowing which lion or lions were involved in the actual kill. It is highly probable that Narnia was not involved in the kill as she was not present when we arrived, she did not arrive to feed and nor did we see her for the rest of the morning. The 5 girls stay around the kill all morning; eating, sleeping, grooming and taking it easy. Aggression was shown over the meat from Kenge to Athena and Ashanti, Nala to Ashanti, but Phyre showed to be most protective over her meat as she showed aggression to all 4 other girls when feeding. Perhaps they should all just learn to stick to their own bits of meat when Phyre is around!

We move away from the kill sight to look for Narnia but after searching for a while we still cannot find her anywhere.

When we return to the site at 1806h, we find that some of the girls have left the kill. Phyre and Kenge are at the North water pan, trying to wash down the massive amounts of wildebeest they had fed on, no doubt. Nala and Athena are lying on the Centre road and Narnia is with them! At 1850h Phyre and Kenge are back at the kill with Ashanti, who is busy eating. Phyre and Kenge are resting as are Athena, Nala and Narnia, who are about 300m away. After watching them for a while, we leave the girls to sleep off their meal and exit the site.

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