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zimproguide

Don't Move!

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zimproguide

After a short settling in period as the new Kings of Masuma, Liam and Mandla inevitably started mating with the pride females. Lionesses will not always ovulate immediately when mating with new pride males, its nature’s way. The female will show all the signs to the male that she is ready to mate and mate they will, but no cubs will be conceived. As long as there a lionesses wanting to mate, the new pride males are not going anywhere. This is a false estrus period but it serves to create a bond between the males and their new pride. Once things have settled the females will conceive.

 

We new were due to have a little boom of cubs in the Shumba pride as we saw Liam and Mandla mating with all the females at different times. Interestingly they seemed to share this duty without much squabbling. So now we have at last count twelve cubs all born within about three months of each other.

 

Tracking lions on foot is just about my favorite thing to do. I love the tracking period when you are trying to think like a lion, where are they going, what were they doing. Patience and persistence as I have said before are the words for lion tracking.

 

With what I have said above in mind regarding the twelve new cubs in the Shumba pride , I am no longer tracking these cats for the moment. Mama lioness with small cubs is very serious matter and not to be taken lightly. In my experience when the cubs are bigger and able to easily move with the pride then I am happy to track them again as the females seem less protective knowing the cubs can move with them away.

 

Contrary to what most people believe, lions generally will run away when they see people on foot. I have had some amazing experiences where they have not and have allowed my guests and I into their space. This is few and far between however with wild lions.

 

We had arrived at Masuma early as we had received a radio call that the pride was out in the open close to the bridge. We spent a good hour with them in a brilliant sighting. Liam and Mandla, some of the lionesses and all twelve cubs. Gradually as the sun rose they moved off west in some thick blue bush.

 

We continued to Masuma hide as I was planning to walk with my guests into the granite hills behind Masuma. As usual a safety briefing before we set off, I explained I was happy that we knew where the lionesses and cubs were, about four kilometers west of us and bedded down for the day. We would take a wander for a coupe of hours in the hills and hopefully find some Elephant bulls to approach.

 

I was not walking with my usual tracker as he was away on time off. I had the legend that is Felix with me! Felix is a reformed poacher turned tracker and is fearless or as I have heard someone say has no imagination as to what could happen. It is very difficult to get Felix to walk behind you when on a walk as he feels as tracker he must be in front. My feeling is, if we are not actively tracking something then I am in front. We had our usual little squabble about who would be in front. I won for a change, and off we went. My plan was to get to the spring, then carry onto the dry river behind and cross it to the hills beyond. We did and found a very obliging Ele bull who we spent time with. When on the way back we hit the same riverbed and followed it along to where there is high outcrop with steep sides right on a corner on the riverbed. There is a hawk eagle nest I wanted to look at in an acacia above the riverbed. We were approaching the place. I was in front, Felix behind me and the four guests behind Felix in single file. I always tell my guests no talking when we walk, as I need to listen.

 

What I hear as we stepped into view of the corner of the river bed was a sound that needs no introduction, the deep guttural growl of a lion. I quickly look in the direction of the sound and up on the lip of the river bed about twenty meters away is a lioness. Her body and head low, ears flat and tail whipping with that constant growl. I have said it many times, the word growl does this noise absolutely no justice. It is a sound that goes through you, you can feel it as well as hear it. As we lock eyes she thunders down the riverbank towards us, I shout “DON’T MOVE!” at my guests and have my rifle up on my shoulder. She comes down the river bed and forward a couple of meters then breaks left and back up the side of the riverbed. As she get to the top of the bank I see them, two tiny cubs.

 

Quickly I tell my guests, “back up, back up the other side of the river bed, now!” keeping my eyes on the lioness all the time. Again I shout “don’t run, stay together” They start to move back , at just about the same time one of the cubs darts forward in confusion and tumbles down the riverbank straight towards us. As this happens the lioness comes at us again.

 

In my experience with most animals that are charging you, lion in this case. You have a very good idea when the charge is serious, by serious I mean it looks like the animal will not break its charge and is coming all the way. People like to use the term “Mock Charge” , it is not a term I like as there is no “Mock” about it, the animal is very serious, just maybe not serious enough to follow through just yet. Lion when not serious enough to come all the way will come at you with stiff legs making themselves look big, pushing up dust in front of them, tail whipping from side to side. If you have a pet cat at home you will know when it’s getting feisty by its tail. Lions are just the same. However when you see a lion come at you low to the ground, moving very fast and the tail is stiff, its game time!

 

The lioness came the second time at as like lightening, low to the ground, tail stiff and no noise. My guests are now halfway up the riverbank behind me about three or four meters behind me. My mind is going a mile a minute. I am thinking this is it; I am going to have to shoot her. The cub that has fallen down the riverbank is only about five meters from me on my right and its proximity to us is the problem. Instinctively I go on the offensive, I take two big deliberate steps toward her, rifle on my shoulder staring down the sights and scream with everything I have. I don’t remember what I screamed, but as I do she breaks her charge at about six or seven meters from me. Covering me in sand and dust from the riverbed as she changes direction. In my peripheral vision I can see Felix about a meter back and left with his axe raised and poised to swing it. I tell him to move fast up the riverbed, I follow him walking backwards making sure I don’t trip as I go. The lioness has now grabbed the cub and is up the opposite riverbank growling again and tail whipping. We move away back down the riverbank till we are out of her sight and rumbling from the lioness stops. I keep my guests moving quickly till we are a good couple of hundred meters away then we stop. At that point everyone just starts to nervous giggle and chatter all at once. I ask if everyone is ok, everyone is fine. Feeling very alive! I turn to Felix and smile and shake hands with him. I guess there are new cubs in the Shumba pride….

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wilddog

Wonderful. Thanks again!

 

Probably wise not to quote what you screamed at her. Some the Anglo Saxon expletives are very powerful! :)

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Kitsafari

I read this on your FB page, and I have to tell you, my heart stopped and i held my breath as you faced off with the lioness. so glad that all parties came away with no injuries but a shaken heart and a tale to tell.

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PT123

Holy cats - that's what I call a walking safari!

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