Lion Drama Closes Busanga’s Season on a High Note

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Shumba guide Isaac Kalio reports on a phenomenal final month of our season in Kafue’s Busanga Plains…

I came back from leave on the 22nd September. Colleague Newton Mulenga reported that the nomadic male lion was alone and that his coalition partner was missing after being seen with a face full of porcupine quills. We suspect this killed him.

This lone male, named Beast, has been sighted numerous times on the plains and the resident pride seems to have lost their fear of him.

Beast

Exciting news is the females appear to be in “pseudo oestrus,” a state where lions come into heat without ovulating, in order to impress Beast and protect their cubs. It all started with Queen, the alpha female of the pride, who left the group to find Beast and they mated for a couple of days.

Beast and Queen 

During this time her first daughter Machine was made to look after Queen’s cub, together with her own two cubs; it was fascinating to watch these cubs taking on a lechwe calf which was discovered after being chased off of their kill by Machine’s twin boys near Shumba Camp. The two boys then climbed up onto the Shumba deck after finishing their meal. Familiar behaviour for us!

A young male seen on the deck at Shumba Camp

The twins chasing a lechwe calf

But the story doesn’t end there...

Beast finished mating and on one of our afternoon game drives we found him with Shy at a zebra kill. It was difficult to know who made the kill as we found Beast with full belly and Shy feeding. We witnessed a few fights which didn’t seem to be serious and they seemed to have genuine respect for each other.

Beast and Shy sharing a kill

Beast and Shy fighting

It got dark and we thought we’d go back first thing the next morning; we duly did and it was interesting to see the two males still feeding together. The first thought that came to my mind was “Here is the formation of a new coalition”. Shy is the resident male who has been on the run from Beast and Blonde all season. Incidentally, Shy was also seen mating down south with a female from the Moshi Pride.

Finally the zebra was finished, so what next? Shy went and sat 100 metres to the south and Beast 100 metres to the north, both staring at each other with faces seemingly full of questions. Eventually Beast moved on.

That day we met Machine looking very desperate and roaring. We assumed she was looking for the rest of the pride. An hour or two later she caught up with Princess and her first litter, the twin boys, one of which she pushed to mate with her. Shame, that little boy had no experience and Machine, after a lot of frustration, disappeared in the night. In the morning Machine was happy... and Beast seemed to be in love again!

One of Machine's cubs tries to mate with her.

We thought this was the end of the story but Beast, who has received so much amorous attention, was then seen mating with two females at the same time, after Princess joined her sister, Machine. At two years old, Princess is the youngest female in the pride.

Now, just as we thought all the lion loving was over, Shumba GM Ondyne Dobeyn sent me some pics of a lactating female who seemed to appear out of nowhere. She then met up with Beast in in front of Shumba Camp and immediately push him to mate. I couldn’t believe it – the female was Maggie with her tiny cubs in tow!

Beast has now mated with every female in the resident Papyrus Pride, which raises several questions – which may only be answered in six or seven months’ time…

• Will Beast become the King of Busanga?

• Will Beast accept the existing cubs?

• Will Beast become a coalition partner with Shy?

• Was pseudo oestrus practiced by these females?

Time – and the start of our new season in the Busanga Plains next June – will tell.

Written and Photographed by Isaac Kalio

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