It’s a very dry year across the region and the wild creatures are struggling, but this is Africa and animals are adapted to these extremes. This morning as we were doing our routine checks and preparing to collar Leila we encountered numerous baboon carcasses on the floodplain and dry river-bed. These baboons may have been hunted by Leila or one of the other juvenile lions. That’s a great sign and an even better one is this Bateleur, a type of raptor, feeding on the baboon carcass. This demonstrates a complete food chain where each of the animals have a role to play. We still have work to do to increase numbers of certain species, but we have come a long way.
Cleopatra of the Sungue pride stares us down and demands respect. We know better than to get too close. We will observe her strength and beauty from afar.
It’s the dry season, so it’s not the height of Gorongosa’s baby animal season (that usually happens in the spring as rains recede). But there are still plenty of baby animals around, which is a good sign! Carlos Serra captured this particularly adorable photo shoot of a baby vervet monkey with its family.
Wire snares are traps that poachers set to catch antelopes for food, but snares don’t discriminate between an antelope and a lion. Sometimes lions are the unfortunate victims of snares. Our rangers and vet team are called out to save these lions all too often and today was no exception. Our vet, Rui Branco, organized an operation to tranquilize a coalition of two male lions, one of whom had a snare around its leg. Rui gathered his team, helicopter pilot Mike Pingo, colleague Louis Van Wyk, and our own Paola Bouley to fly out to a remote area in a Jet Ranger helicopter. Rui successfully darted both males, put GPS collars on them and removed the snare from this adult maneless lion we’ve named “Jatu”. This is another life saved, and a new group of lions to keep under our watchful eye.
This is a rare showdown caught on camera – two lion cubs stare down a hippo in the floodplain deep inside Gorongosa. Even at this young age, I think these two cubs know better than to mess with a several ton hippo. Hippos are notoriously territorial and, even though they only eat plants, they are considered one of the most dangerous animals in Africa. These two cubs are keeping a safe distance but their curiosity is getting the best of them.
Gorongosa’s rangers are constantly on patrol removing poachers’ snares before they capture their next victim. Sometimes, they are too late, and an animal is captured in a snare. If we’re lucky, the animal will still be alive when they find it. In the case of this baby elephant who was found caught in a snare, she was very lucky. A rescue team, including our own vet, Rui Branco, tranquilized the baby and it’s mom, so they could safely remove the snare. After baby was freed, they both woke up and went back to their elephant ways. We hope this young one will have a very long and healthy life ahead!
25 minutes after we deployed this trail camera she passed by… a healthy lioness with 2 new cubs. We are tracking them this week not far from Chitengo Camp (Gorongosa’s main tourist camp). We feel like we might as well be tracking a tiger as she is denning her cubs in and around the lush palm forests lining the beautiful Pungue River. Finding two new cubs on a trail camera is such a wonderful feeling. It means that the lions are breeding and, we hope, the lion population is growing.
Tonga Torcida (L) and Chintsomba (R) – our lion guardians – work tirelessly each day to monitor and keep Gorongosa’s lions out of snares. This lioness is Amelia, she was just collared this week and is pregnant. We will use the collar to keep an eye on her and soon her new cubs. We soon hope to welcome her new cubs in to the world!
I had a very rewarding day today. A group of students from Casa Banana, a local village, came to visit the park. This is an incredible opportunity as most of these students have never been inside this national park that they have lived next to their whole lives. The community education department in Gorongosa brings these school groups in to learn about the science and conservation that is happening here. I had the privilege of speaking with them about our work tracking lions. They were very curious about the satellite collars that we use to track lions. The more the young neighbors of Gorongosa understand about the importance of lions, the more they will want to protect them!