It’s Monday 15th October and an exciting morning with some lions.

I do hope that you are well and sitting comfortably ready and raring for the week ahead. So what news from the Luangwa Valley? Well let me tell you, this week we are throwing out the usual tactics of getting stories from the camps and instead I am being terribly selfish and telling you all about a sighting that Rob and I had. Every Wednesday morning, we head to Luangwa River Camp and usually try to get going early, especially this time of the year as the temperatures are rising. So, John arrives at our house full of stories about the morning ride into work and announces that the staff run had seen a big pride of lions. Well I was not going to miss out on this opportunity so dusted off my camera; which I can assure you has not been used much at all lately. I grabbed Rob from the office, packed up the car and off we went; and sure enough there were the lions – what a treat to see so many and also actually playing around, suckling and interacting with each other.

Dr Matt Becker and the Zambian Carnivore Programme along with the DNPW team were obviously also there making notes and identifications etc. Then Matt asked if it was ok if they put a collar on one of the females. Now I realise that for quite a few of you the immediate reaction is negative, especially when trying to take photos of the animals. However, as we found out from the research team these lions were part of the group that we called Big Pride which had split off in 2016. They have been spending increasing amounts of time in the GMA (Game Management Area – the non-park side of the river) and the father of the cubs is likely to be the male lions from what they call the Mvu Coalition and not Ginger and Garlic – hence the penchant for increased time on our side of the river. This is obviously very important information as for the safety of the cubs they will likely to be wanting to spend increasing amount of time away from their original pride.

For a little more history (which is fascinating) this is the exact same way that the Chinzombo Pride formed many years ago. Given that in 2016 the resident Chichele Pride female was killed by Ginger and Garlic, this has opened the area for a new pride which these guys have now filled. The researchers decided to collar one of the females for several reasons; one of them being so that they can keep a track of this splinter group but now a new pride. Also with this monitoring of the animals comes safety, as with them being outside of the park we are obviously aware and careful with Human/Wildlife conflicts so we want to keep everyone nice and safe.

The team all convened and after careful consideration of the circumstances, they darted one of the females (obviously not mum but one of the aunts). Once she was safely sedated and the remaining pride had moved on, we could come in and observe proceedings. I have to be honest with you it was fascinating. The team measured the animal, took her temperature, took a small tissue sample for DNA purposes and then fitted the collar. Talking to Matt about how they fit the collar and determine where to put the collar and how to size it taking into the fact that this was a fully grown female but obviously strains and flexes when hunting and killing prey was so interesting and certainly put a new slant and perspective on this. We left the team to it as we didn’t want to crowd and impact the situation. Later that day the team were coming back to camp, having spent the entire day with the pride ensuring that there were no problems. In fact the pride killed and ate a warthog and behaved as if nothing had happened which is fantastic. Success all round. So hopefully we will be able to keep abreast of how the pride is doing which is important but also exciting.

As a further point of note which I found incredibly interesting and is that the lions from the work done by the researchers is Zambia’s longest running lion conservation project. They utilize collars to give locations of prides and provide Conservation South Luangwa with the information so that they can patrol in the areas that the lions are spending their time, which in turn minimizes the risk of snaring. Throughout the history of the project some 39 lions have had snares removed and to date those 39 lions have given birth to 148 cubs – this is just incredible and shows the amazing work that the teams on the ground here are doing.

Well as you probably guessed I could go on and on for hours about this, but really should leave you all to your day. Hope that you have a fab day and week ahead with all the smiles and laughter possible and also don’t forget to look after each other.

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