Mid-Season Busanga Plains Lion Update


Isaac Kalio


It is almost unbelievable to think that we are halfway through our Kafue season and Busanga is still rocking its lion drama. There has been lots to see, confirms Shumba guide Isaac Kalio. And clearly there is lots to tell….

The start of the season saw the arrival of two new faces. Two nomadic lions appeared at the same time as the Beast mysteriously went missing. These new boys have been named Nervous and Scarface, and they have completely settled down in the hub of our Busanga Plains territory. They are also serious trouble-makers, having manged to split the Papyrus Pride into two.

They originally teamed up with favourites Maggie and Princess, but now Killing Machine seems to have taken over (I couldn’t believe my eyes), leaving Maggie to babysit the cubs.

The burning question is, why is Maggie babysitting? Could it mean some of the cubs belong to her? We have teamed up with the Zambia Carnivore Project (ZCP) research team to try and identify whose cubs survived from last year.  Princess (now three-and-a-half years old) has grown into a big girl and seems to have fallen pregnant by these boys, and we hope to see new cubs soon. However, to our surprise, Machine looks the same too.

Right at the beginning of the season the Papyrus Pride’s Queen tried to make friends with the two new nomads, but they rejected her, and indeed, they fought her almost to the death.

On the 11th we witnessed a big fight involving Queen, Castor and Pollux, against the new big boys. This was an attempt to reclaim territory as well as drive them off their buffalo kill. The giants won the battle and Queen left bleeding while they mated with the elusive Killing Machine who had been safe-guarding the cubs before passing on the responsibility to Maggie.

It didn't take long before Castor and Pollux decided to rejoin their family. For more than a month now these seven lions have been seen in their new territory, the Paradise area to the south-east of Shumba.

Then, on the night of the 24th August we heard a lot roaring around Shumba, from both the males and females. In the morning we drove out and caught up with Scarface, Nervous, Princess and Machine, while just behind them we saw Queen, stalking them. Knowing Queen is a very experienced lioness I figured she must have come up with a new trick to unite the pride. And yes, in a very smart move she quickly jumped on to one of the males and asked for some love. For the first half an hour she was fought off, but she didn’t give up.

Eventually the boys started fighting for her and mating with her. She managed to get them under her control, constantly swapping to keep both of them happy.

Now my question is, could this be another pseudo-oestrus practised last year by every female (including Maggie who had younger than month old cubs) so they could mate with the Beast in order to safeguard their cubs?  Also… can they come back together and make one pride? Will Castor and Pollux be accepted?

Reports from the ZCP guys from their last sighting of 2017 in November was that the whole pride eventually had been seen with the Beast, with cubs climbing all over him.

Meanwhile his disappearance remains a mystery. All we can do is wait and see if a dream can come true.

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