Lion (Panthera leo)
I really feel that 2017 is going to be a big year for our lions. Almost all the lions are new to the Reserve and to each other, so they will naturally need to establish their place in the hierarchy if and when they find one another. I wrote in my previous letters to you that we are hoping to have two prides on Welgevonden Game Reserve in time. Lion dynamics may be different here to much larger, unfenced areas like the Serengeti or Okavango, but that said, Welgevonden has the size and landscape variety to offer perfect habitat for the lions.
These were the key lion events during January:
The lioness made several appearances, but not in daytime. She has been spotted not far from site 31’s access road at night on Pad Sonder Naam (where she was seen on the zebra kill the day of December 17th). Her tracks were seen on the road ‘Pad Sonder Naam’ a few times, meaning she is definitely hunting and then returning to the area where she has been hiding for the past month and a half. We are still awaiting the outcome.
The Southern lion was seen a couple of times during the month as he was patrolling his territory as usual, but also visited the Lioness on ‘Pad Sonder Naam’ a few times.
I tracked him on the morning of the 12th of January, and he went over Gearbox Road from Sterkstroom, heading north. Drag marks on the road indicated that he killed an animal about the size of a warthog. Although the tracks were very fresh, we could not locate him. We did however find him that afternoon, in almost exactly the same spot and close to the lioness.
Just a few days ago, Steven and I tracked the male lion on the Eastern Boundary fence where he had been marking his territory. Steven exactly where this lion would end up, as he had tracked him previously. Sure enough, after a few kilometres, we came across the male lying in the road, resting after his long journey.
The other lion in the north-western corner of the Reserve has been seen in the area of West Gate and Manual Gate where he is successfully hunting. Meanwhile the two lionesses released with the lion have moved down to Nkonkoni Plains where they hunting successfully together and have formed a very strong bond, as you can see: