The Lion Prides of Siwandu

Conrad & Retha Cooke
January 18, 2018

It doesn’t matter if you’re a safari veteran or a first-timer, lion sightings are always special. We asked Siwandu’s guiding team to give us an update on what the lion prides around Siwandu have been up to since we re-opened for the season last June.

Lake Nzerakera pride

These lions (2 males, 4 females and 3 sub adults) have been the most prolific pride in our area, both in terms of game-viewing and pride dynamics. At the start of the season, just after the big rains, we found them mainly in the Lake Manze area. They were very mobile, often moving kilometres overnight in search of food. But as the Selous dried out towards October and herds of impala, giraffe, buffalo, zebra, wildebeest and hartebeest were forced to move down towards the lakes, the lions adapted their modus operandi. For weeks at time the Nzerakera pride of nine lions restricted their movement to areas along Lake Nzerakera, the lake in front of Siwandu – why go anywhere when food comes to you? Their ambush tactics paid great dividends and vultures often led us to their kills, consisting mostly of buffalo, wildebeest or zebra. Once or twice they forced us out of our normal bush-breakfast site – (not that we really mind!). Other mornings the sandy pathways in camp were covered in their tracks. 

The younger of the two males is in the process of leaving / being kicked out of the pride. This was all the more evident when the females went on heat in August and September and the old-boy wanted all the mating rights to himself. That was a few months ago but there are no signs that any of the females are lactating. 

The young sub-adult who was seen limping badly after a buffalo hunt in the Machinjioni-area seems to have made a full recovery. Bibi, the old matriarch has started showing signs of her age, but do not count her out when it comes to organizing the pride and their hunting effort: she seems as efficient as always, even when leading from the back.  

Lake Manze Pride

This small pride of 4 (2 females and 2 sub-adults) share more than just a home range with the Nzerakera 9. The older of the Nzerakera males often visit the neighbours - whether for a hot-meal or for a cuddle. The Lake Manze pride’s home-range overlaps with that of the larger pride, so they’ve often been pushed out towards the far-end of their range. Our guides saw them taking on the Nzerakera pride in July in a territorial dispute, only to beat a hasty retreat after the initial skirmish. 

Other prides

The Lake Siwandu pride male was seen in July with a porcupine quill stuck in its nose. He was in very bad shape, struggling to even get up and walk to the lake’s edge for a drink. Infection from porcupine quills can be very dangerous and neither the male, or any members of his pride, has been seen since.  Our walking guides have reported lion-tracks (a female with small cubs) to and from Lake Nzerakera and we wonder if these could be the remaining females in the Lake Siwandu pride.  

There has also been no sign of the Sonongo pride this season but we have been seeing two young males who have formed a coalition of some sort. It will still be a while before they’re big and bold enough to attempt taking over a pride for themselves. We’re not sure from which prides they originate but they’ve given us ample entertainment in their often-clumsy attempts to make a living.  From unsuccessfully attempting to hunt impala in broad daylight, to bringing down a young giraffe on top of a large acacia bush…with thorns 5cm long covering their kill (- they abandoned it after eating whichever bits-and-pieces they could reach). At least they got free tooth-picks out of the deal!

We often think that lions, being top of the food chain, have an easy life. But their struggle for survival is just as intense as any other animals around them. We hope that our fantastic sightings will continue until we close Siwandu in March.

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