Wednesday, 12 October 2011

10th October – Jacaranda Mystery Solved!!!

Photo of the Day
Jacaranda Pride alive and well!

Morning Drive
1 x breeding herd of elephant – Vielmetter, Back 9s

Afternoon Drive
(Herald and Chad)
5 x Lions (Jacaranda Pride – 2 lionesses and 3 cubs) – Buchner, Buchner Access
10 x buffalo bulls – De Luca, Umbabat Cutline
1 x elephant bull – Buchner, Wilderness Access Rd

Daily Synopsis
So I returned to drive in the afternoon – while Herald only saw elephant this morning, the general game sounded good, and I was keen to head out there with my new guests.  Hearing that Marka had seen Kuhanya sleeping in a marula tree a bit earlier in the afternoon while heading down to Java, Herald and I began our searching there – while we found her tracks, we had no luck finding her.
Herald then headed to Buchner hoping to get lucky with the other Jacaranda lions and cubs by the dead elephant, while I continued looking for Kuhanya.  Although there was the lure of elephant and rhino to the west of my position, I kept trying for the leopard, and did manage to relocate a herd of about 10 buffalo bulls that Herald had found earlier.  As my guests hadn’t seen any in Namibia, it was nice to be able to show them these large beasts, albeit in a mopane thicket.
While watching them, Herald called to tell me that the five lions were still at the dead elephant carcass, and I decided to head up that side.  Truth be told, we saw very little about – some impalas, steenbuck and nice birds, but not much variety – and hence the reason I don’t like driving in that area on my guests’ first drive. 
Fortunately though, there was a light at the end of the tunnel, and we arrived at the lion sighting to find them still there.  As we approached, the three young lions (14-month old cubs – one male and two females) ran off, and I feared that they had become skittish.  Fortunately moms were their usual relaxed selves and slept.  Soon the cubs came and lay right near the vehicle and we enjoyed a wonderful sighting of them!

Jacaranda cubs - 14 months old and doing well!
It definitely is the same three cubs we saw at the beginning of the year, and I know this as I eventually had a chance to get a better look and photos of the lionesses.  While I am still a little bit confident in my identification of the one lioness being of the Jacaranda Four (from my last sighting of this pride last week on Ingwelala), it was made with the aid of binoculars and not with any photos, and as I have learnt, you can’t prove anything without photos!

Solving the mystery?
On seeing the cubs and mother, the memories of my first sighting of the 2-month old cubs almost exactly a year ago came flooding back to me.  I recalled the mother’s old appearance and notched ear.  In the sighting I also realised that the lioness I thought I had seen with this group last week was not present.  Was I wrong in my ID or is she AWOL? 
While pondering this and commenting how I believed that the cubs were being raised by lionesses that weren’t their own mothers, the pride got up and moved to the road and appeared to be moving off.  However, they soon turned around and returned to the carcass when a jackal approached, and one lioness ran in to chase it off before the pride followed her back to resume feeding on the now tough pieces of meat that remained.

Jacaranda Pride scavanging off an elephant carcass
We left the lions and went to have a drink on Buchner before heading back to camp – we did see two hyenas, an African wild cat, an elephant bull and a herd of wildebeest on the way back to camp with the spotlight, but it was an afternoon that belonged to the lions.
However, something bothered me, and the more I thought about it, the more I realised that the cubs' mother was in fact present.  I checked my photos to confirm this, and once I got a positive ID, things made more logical sense – why else would another lioness raise cubs that weren’t her own?
But answering one question opened the door for another question...if two of the original three Jacaranda lionesses were in this sub-pride, and the other of the three lionesses (with the small cub) was with one of the Xakubasa lionesses, then who exactly was the third lioness in the pride? 
Logic told me it could only be one lioness – the “missing” Xakubasa lioness.  So with this hypothesis, I scoured my photo archives to find suitable images of the mothers to make comparisons...and what do you know?  Of course!  The other lioness is indeed the Xakubasa female that we couldn’t account for – she had been with her sister all along!!!
While I feel a bit silly for not picking this up earlier (and for being too lazy to confirm the third lionesses identity when we first found the pride a few weeks back), I am learning how difficult it can in fact be to identify lions!
This “finding” answers a number of questions, and poses a few less than we have had with our other discoveries.  One that still needs answering then is, where are the so-called “Jacaranda Four”, and was the lioness I assumed was of the Jacaranda Four just a misidentification, or is she still in the mix?
So for clarity purposes, the “known” situation as it stands is that the Jacaranda Mega-Pride is currently composed of the following fractions:
·         2 x old Jacaranda lionesses and 3 x 14-month old cubs (Jacaranda Pride?)
·         2 x Xakubasa lionesses and 1 x Jacaranda lioness and her 4-month old cub (Timbavati Pride?)
·         2 x white lions and 1 x tawny young male (Xakubasa Pride?)
Not accounted for then, are:
·         Jacaranda Four – 1 x old Jacaranda lioness and three subadults (Jacaranda Four Pride?)
·         Timbavati Pride – the remaining 3 x lionesses that were left behind to our north-west when the Xakubasa Pride broker away at the end of 2009 (Timbavati Pride?)
I have one last suspicion – the mother lioness with the two Xakubasa lionesses is possibly in fact one of their sisters – she does appear to be of a similar age, and would explain her actions of so willingly allowing the two lionesses to join her.  If this is the case, this pride that we have been referring to as Jacaranda Pride for the last two weeks could well be the portion of the Jacaranda Pride that broke off in 2006, that was renamed the Timbavati Pride...albeit that the mother was definitely part of the Jacaranda Pride last year and early this year!
I probably lost you all a long time ago, but this exercise has been more to clear up my own understanding of what is happening in our lion world than anything else! 
So forgive me for rambling on, but I am just delighted to have at least found one or two answers!
Hopefully tomorrow will be a simpler day, with some wonderful sightings that don’t confuse my poor little mind!


  1. Good to have updates again, thanks. Pride dynamics sure is confusing but I am sure you will figure it out somehow. Lets hope you find the uncomplicated beautiful Kuhanya tomorrow.

  2. Thanks for confusing me Chad!!! :)
    I agree with Ilzett - would be great if you can find Kuhanya and post some pictures for us.
    Love the wild dog pictures.