The lioness, Amelia, has just given birth. Now that the rainy season is beginning, we had to dig and winch ourselves out of a good share of mud on our journey to find her. We finally found her under this palm tree with her newborn cubs. We could only briefly hear the cubs today but we hope to report back soon on these exciting new additions to the Gorongosa family.
We’ve been tracking an elusive lioness who has been rearing cubs amidst the thick palm forests along the Pungue River (and just behind the Chitengo tourist camp). A patrol sighting earlier in the day followed by smart thinking by our scout, Chintsomba, led us to her in no time. As night fell and the moon rose in the sky, we quietly tracked her as she led us on her hunt. She quickly captured a warthog for her hungry cubs. We even got to hear the little cubs roar. What a night!
We took photos to identify her and fitted her with a GPS collar so we can continue monitoring her family. With two beautiful 5 month old cubs in tow, this is such a gift for us all!
This is the quintessential face of Gorongosa lions…highly elusive, wild animals that are very difficult to locate. The GPS collars we deploy go far beyond just being a research tool… they are our “conservation anchors,” and they help us save lives. Tracking groups weekly, keeping them out of snares and hands of poachers, deploying our rapid-response vet unit effectively, and of course keeping track of precious young cubs. Trail camera photos also help us capture candid photos of lions in their habitats. You can learn more about how we use these tools by watching this video.
These trail cameras capture some of the coolest photos I’ve ever seen – like this close up of a male lion. It’s also great for identifying individuals by looking at the pattern of their whisker spots.
This batch of photos on WildCam is over 60% complete and we couldn’t be more excited and grateful for the data that you all are gathering. The next batch of photos will be ready to upload soon, so here is a sneak peek!
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.
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.
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!
Flavia has split from the pride (and her 14 month old cubs) and begun mating with the newly arrived Xivulo Coalition. Some of Gorongosa’s safari guides captured this fierce moment ! This male (we are calling Xivulo M2) showed up out of the blue with one of the Park’s oldest males a few months ago. They have seized the core area of the Sungue range and have been mating with two of Nginga’s recently claimed courts – Flavia and Pandora. New cubs are likely on the horizon this year or early next year – stay tuned!