Its Monday 25th November 2013 and Carnivore Week

Well hello there my avid reader! So what do we have for you today? Well we have had a very busy week at Nkwali with Carnivore week so seeing as I was not involved with the upfront side of it all I thought we would hear from Elizabeth, who is part of the ZCP (Zambia Carnivore Project) team and was out and about with the guests and the tracking equipment. So this week over to Elizabeth:

“Carnivore Week kicked off on Monday the 18th of November with a brief afternoon game drive followed by a presentation at Nkwali Camp on the research, education, and conservation conducted by ZCP. One of the guests inquired about the status of wild dogs in Zambia – are wild dog numbers on the rise? Kanga and Kiki, two senior guides at RPS, seemed to think so! Sightings have steadily increased over the past 10 years, they said. More so than specific numbers, however, ZCP is interested in wild dog and other carnivore trends across Zambia such as population dynamics and spatial patterns.

Day Two of Carnivore Week held plenty of excitement. Starting at 6 a.m., the crew headed up to Nsefu and immediately encountered 9 lions from Nsefu Pride at the Hot Springs. In total, Nsefu Pride (aka Salt Spring Pride) has 19 lions and was recently featured on the BBC three part series in South Luangwa called Countdown to the Rains. ZCP has one radio collar on a lioness in the pride, however she was not amongst the 9 seen Tuesday morning. After lunch, however, the crew found the collared lioness mating with the older male lion from Tsetse Lagoon Coalition (the initial encounter between these two can also be seen on Countdown to the Rains, Episode 1). And they were not alone: another older lioness from Nsefu Pride was mating with the younger male from the coalition – and they put on quite a show!

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As if that sighting wasn’t – uh hum – lively enough, the crew then stumbled upon a female leopard near Lunga Lagoon. But with dark looming skies overhead, they decided to leave the leopard and make their way back to camp. En route, they spotted a very strange looking giraffe: she was nearly frozen still, looking intently in one direction. After following her gaze, the team saw that her young calf had been killed recently and was still in the process of being eaten by three very bloody hyenas.

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Day Three: Despite the tantalising pre-storm displays of Day Two, there was – yet again – no rain in the Luangwa. But whatever excitement the guests missed by leaving the leopard was soon forgotten as the team came upon even more individuals from Nsefu Pride, including cubs, on a warthog kill. While several cubs tried to get their piece of the hog, their mother refused to share, so they sneakily crawled through some nearby brush to try and get a taste when she wasn’t looking!

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Day Four: Thursday began with a morning drive through the GMA, where one of the guests was lucky enough to spot a skittish leopard cub climbing into a mango tree. Just as the guests crossed into the park, they received a call from ZCP Field Ecologist Thandiwe Mweetwa to report that the ZCP field team found a recently collared pack of dogs in the southern part of the park. They wasted no time. The team quickly gathered more supplies as the morning game drive was clearly going to morph into an all day affair and then hastily made their way south to Kapamba. Sure enough, they arrived to find the Manzi Pack of 5 male dogs and 1 female resting in the riverbed. They had tea and lunch by the dogs and watched them dig holes in the sand in search of water. They even saw an elephant herd on the other side of the riverbed begin to cross – presumably in search of the same small patches of water near the dogs – but quickly divert their course upon seeing the pack.

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Day Five: Now with wild dog, leopard, hyena, and lion sightings under their belts, the guests decided to stick to the Main Game area in the morning. After a tea break, they came upon Big Pride – the large pride of 20 lions in the central game viewing area of the park. There were 18 lions that morning – 6 adult females, 2 adult males, and 10 cubs – all fat and lazy, sleeping with their limbs draped over another, clearly recovering from a recent gorge. One of the males began to sniff the genitalia of a nearby sleeping female and grimace, a behaviour known as phlegming, which unblocks glands in the nasal passage, allowing him to take in the full scent of the female.

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Carnivore Week concluded at exactly the right time as Friday night officially marked the end of the rains countdown! Thankfully, the wet weather subsided by Saturday so that the guests could make one last circuit of the Nsefu sector, where they witnessed a newly born baby impala try to take its first steps!

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After that incredible sighting, the crew went on to find the collared Nsefu lioness and she was still with her mate … even though he refused to share his recent puku kill. The rest of the pride was some distance away from the mating pair, looking cool and content in the aftermath of the rains.

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All in all a fantastic and successful carnivore week and we look forward to meeting more carnivore enthusiasts next year!

Thanks ever so much Elizabeth – very little I can follow on with except have a fantastic week and catch up next Monday

Cheers

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