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Back to Busanga

Zambia Kafue Busanga

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#21 Sangeeta

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Posted 27 October 2016 - 03:05 AM

@KaingU Lodge - really looking forward to reading the rest of this. The plains look lovely and your lion monochrome is magnificent. It does feel like the entire park is doing really well. Knock on wood.

I, too, am astonished (though thrilled) to hear that Mr Busanga (who some of us call Busangadude here) has been spotted recently. We had heard that he had not been seen since after this year's rains - but I am not entirely surprised to hear this. That lion is capable of the most astonishing feats!

I had not realized that you actually lived there for several years. Have you ever seen that astonishing spectacle that Tyrone described to SafariChick and myself where on one or two days a year, the plains are literally covered in fish that emerge from the mud? If so, did you ever photograph that?

Thanks for sharing this trip with us.
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#22 KaingU Lodge

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Posted 27 October 2016 - 03:50 AM

 

 

Great past and current lion shots.  The map of the two prides' territory was very interesting.

 

"The annual flooding makes it very hard for these lions to raise cubs. Pretty much every year there are cubs, and pretty much every year the cubs don't make it.... Lion cub mortality is always high, but how much more so in a swamp with small cubs trying to keep up."

 

Was the flooding also common when there were 2 larger prides in the past?  Why would #s be down now if the flood patterns have not changed?  Thanks for your input.

 

The flooding has always been there.  Pride dynamics are in a constant state of flux, I am sure Egilio (for example) could explain it a lot better than I, but for example a small pride in decline faces threats from other prides taking territory and small prides finding it difficult to take down larger prey (Buffalo, Hippo, Zebra) therefore a lack of food security.  It's a natural cycle (In my opinion) and for sure Busanga has at times seen lion affected by man (large pride males hunted in GMAs, snares etc but I don't see these two factors as a main reason).  But then just yesterday I saw a report from someone staying at Plains camp that had just seen a previously unknown lioness and cubs in the plains.  So things change constantly.  As I have alluded to, cub mortality is high.  The floods just make a complex dynamic even more so. 

 

When we were living there I recall the treeline pride was something like 12+ strong.  I also recall the lufupa pride at that time had 12 cubs - not one of which survived as the pride basically abandoned them in moving off. 

 

In a few years we could see another pride in the area, the current one may expand massively.  Who knows? 

 

 

Pride dynamics can be pretty complex. Small prides get pushed out by bigger prides. Bigger prides are more successful at securing food, providing safe areas for cubs, and thus in raising cubs. But typically once a prides goes over 5-7 adult females, and the main prey is buffalo, the pride will start breaking up. If the main prey is smaller, this will happen at smaller pride sizes. This is because the costs (hunting is dangerous) and gain balance tips. In some areas these dynamics can be seasonally, like the Kalahari in areas where ungulates still migrate. When zebras and wildebeests are plentiful prides will be together. Once the zebras and wildebeest migrate out, the prides will split and it's pretty much each one on their own.

 

Busanga is a little different again, it's not so much the prey which moves, it's the water.  I'm not sure if Neil's data showed seasonal shifts in homeranges of lions. I can imagine that prides can make an easy living on the plains when they're dry, but once the water is back they probably retreat, to areas occupied by other lions. Or when they stay in the wet areas, lives become difficult, with frequent and long water crossings, which are even harder on the cubs. 

 

 

Hey Egil,

 

To quote from Neil's PhD Thesis:

 

However, increasing HR size in the wet season did not significantly reduce the inundated proportion of HR, and thus the shift may have been to shallower water rather than dry land, particularly for plains lions that experienced a greater degree of flooding. Simultaneously, the increased HR size may also have been influenced by prey species being more homogeneously dispersed in the wet season due to widespread availability of water (sensu Davidson et al., 2013). This assertion is supported by the fact that female lions’ minimum daily movement was significantly greater in the wet season than the dry, suggesting that they had to travel further to find prey

 

 

It is possible that plains prides are thus adversely affected by both higher levels of anthropogenic influence (closer to the park edge) and greater flooding during the wet season which together may adversely affect pride size relative to woodland lions. During my study, only three of 16 observed cubs born to plains prides survived to one year of age, and all three were born in late wet or early dry seasons. Local tourist guides confirm that historically cubs of females born near the end of the dry season seldom survive the subsequent wet season (I. Mulenga pers. comm.). In East Africa, proximity to rivers and drainage lines was the best predictor of reproductive success (Kissui et al., 2009; Mosser et al., 2009), yet in my study area, where all prides had river access, only 5 of 34 known cubs (14.7%) survived past one year, less than half of Serengeti and 25% of Ngorongoro Crater cub survival rates (Packer et al., 1988). Dry season prey biomass distribution suggests that the Busanga floodplain should be a prime territory for lions in Kafue, but the extreme seasonal fluctuations in the system, along with the potential anthropogenic pressures close to the boundary, mean that dry season habitat selection may not translate into increased fitness.

 

 

 

The conservation status and dynamics of a protected African lion Panthera leo population in Kafue National Park, Zambia

Neil Midlane



#23 KaingU Lodge

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Posted 27 October 2016 - 04:03 AM

@KaingU Lodge - really looking forward to reading the rest of this. The plains look lovely and your lion monochrome is magnificent. It does feel like the entire park is doing really well. Knock on wood.

I, too, am astonished (though thrilled) to hear that Mr Busanga (who some of us call Busangadude here) has been spotted recently. We had heard that he had not been seen since after this year's rains - but I am not entirely surprised to hear this. That lion is capable of the most astonishing feats!

I had not realized that you actually lived there for several years. Have you ever seen that astonishing spectacle that Tyrone described to SafariChick and myself where on one or two days a year, the plains are literally covered in fish that emerge from the mud? If so, did you ever photograph that?

Thanks for sharing this trip with us.

 

Thanks Sangeeta. 

I cannot help but feel that more focus on Busanga with a SAPU (specialised anti-poaching unit) team there (particularly over the green season) is starting to reap benefits.  As I alluded to there has still been some cases of poaching and a recent lion snaring (the snare was removed) but if the momentum can be kept up then I really feel things will improve. 

 

I should point out that the work done by Game Rangers International (and obviously DNPW was they are integrated operationally) is supported by some Kafue operators (although most funding is external).  Wilderness Safaris, Jeffrey & McKeith and Mukambi have played a significant role. 

 

I haven't seen the fish spectacle to be honest.  The area is full of surprises!!


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#24 KaingU Lodge

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Posted 27 October 2016 - 04:28 AM

I hadn't really intended to talk that much about previous years in Busanga, but the more I progress the more relevant it seems to be to me anyway.  We have talked about rising waters and tree climbing lions and how difficult the area is.  So forgive another digression please! 

 

The camps are generally all packed up by the 1st week of November.  But a few weeks later and the spectacle (and solitude) of the plains is incredible. 

 

5400774245_c0c1c0d07e_b.jpgP1010726 by Gilmour  Dickson, on Flickr

Staying on in December (a building project) was challenging but immense fun!!!

 

5400773431_75b9c63fb6_b.jpgP1010722 by Gilmour  Dickson, on Flickr

 

5400685633_8c90a28709_b.jpgP1010111 by Gilmour  Dickson, on Flickr

 

We have been talking about Lion research - here is Neil in action.  The work he started has been continued and built upon by Zambia Carnivore Project (ZCP). Egilio and Paul, Caz have all done great work.  Not just research but snare removal and all sorts of other stuff. 

Money left over from Neil's research was also a serious boost to GRI and their work as when he left he and his major funders (Panthera and Wilderness mainly) agreed that the money would go into GRI's work. 

 

Tree climbing Lions.  I grabbed these snaps while delivering sandwiches and diet coke to Dana Allen who spent literally 8 hours in a vehicle under a tree waiting to capture "the shot" of one of the Busanga females descending the tree.  She was a good 5m off the ground.  He got the shot! 

 

5400747905_e77c76a74b_b.jpgIMG_6331 by Gilmour  Dickson, on Flickr

 

5400749029_9c28639795_b.jpgIMG_6335 by Gilmour  Dickson, on Flickr

 

5400764483_857df1003b_b.jpgP1010634 by Gilmour  Dickson, on Flickr

 

 

Okay, end of digression!

 

 

 

 

 

 


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#25 ZaminOz

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Posted 27 October 2016 - 05:32 AM

@KaingU Lodge

I stumbled upon the Kasonso Anti-Poaching Unit on Facebook (after a post of theirs was "liked" by a friend), supported by Ntengu Safaris.

 

It was good to see that they were having some anti-poaching successes in the Kasonso Busanga GMA, which should benefit the park.

 

(PS: Sorry for the digression!)


Edited by ZaminOz, 27 October 2016 - 05:34 AM.

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#26 KaingU Lodge

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Posted 27 October 2016 - 06:12 AM

@KaingU Lodge

I stumbled upon the Kasonso Anti-Poaching Unit on Facebook (after a post of theirs was "liked" by a friend), supported by Ntengu Safaris.

 

It was good to see that they were having some anti-poaching successes in the Kasonso Busanga GMA, which should benefit the park.

 

(PS: Sorry for the digression!)

 

Yup, they are doing good work.  Ntengu are seriously supporting - they even have a bathawk microlight for surveillance.  Quite an impressive operation up there with some serious investment. 


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#27 Caracal

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Posted 27 October 2016 - 11:14 PM

Really enjoying this TR @KaingU Lodge - and wonderful to see that beautiful photo of the large herd of elephants in the setting sun. When I was in Kapinga in 2007 I saw a small herd that was very nervous plus some lone bulls.

 

Don't recall seeing a rosey-throated longclaw unfortunately but I recall platoons of openbilled storks and other birds on the plains.

 

Lovely shot of the amorous lion couple striding together but then there are many lovely shots throughout Gil.


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#28 Jakob

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Posted 28 October 2016 - 11:19 AM

Thanks for pictures of development of Plains camp. I was there 5 years ago, thinking now that I have to return just to enjoy the Mosi on the platform. Truly amazing site they've got.


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#29 Atravelynn

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Posted 29 October 2016 - 12:03 AM

I enjoyed the digression!


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#30 KaingU Lodge

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Posted 06 November 2016 - 03:44 PM

Apologies!  Now where were we?  Oh yeah, lions.... 

Anyway we decide to move on and leave the lions to it.  To be honest I am quite glad that we (the four of us) are alone in the vehicle as the sounds of astonishment and amazement from Julia's mum and friend are not very 'cool'.  I am really enjoying the reactions but I suspect that some others might not! 

 

  We debate where to head next, I am pretty keen to head down the channel to the area known as 'paradise', but it is a long way down there.  Powell asks the ladies if there is anything they would really like to see and the reply is Zebra, so he recommends we head off to the big open area between Kapinga island and the edge of the plains.  We get down there and it is typical Busanga zebra - flighty and long distance viewing!  No problem for us - I am just impressed that Powell called it so well in knowing pretty certainly where they would be. 

 

29855156034_11c997af73_k.jpguntitled shoot-19043.jpg by G Dickson, on Flickr

 

  We decide that this would be a good place for a cup of coffee.  Certainly a safe place as we can see about 5km in every direction! 

Powell gets a good questioning about his background from the ladies over a coffee.  He also gets questioned heavily on gestation periods and other stuff afterwards and I am impressed by his knowledge.  But Mukambi have a great guiding team overall and I hope he sticks with them as he is a solid guy. 

 

29855179694_81891c6236_k.jpguntitled shoot-19091.jpg by G Dickson, on Flickr

 

We start to head back to camp.  The heat is REALLY building now.  While the plains are cool at night and dawn and dusk there is no mercy in the late morning.  As we get around the north west corner of Kapinga island we run into some wildebeest with young. 

 

29902495924_f2c6cb05a1_k.jpguntitled shoot-19103.jpg by G Dickson, on Flickr

 

And then a few seconds later a solitary Sable bull.  Nice.  although he is not going to hang around to have his photo taken and by now the heat shimmer is strong. 

 

29898506013_611b5dd433_k.jpguntitled shoot-19123.jpg by G Dickson, on Flickr

 

So its back to camp and a brunch. A totally brilliant Busanga beef pie!  Mark the chef does a great job at the plains camp that is for sure.  Then its a cold (well, not really cold as nothing is cold at the moment) shower and a siesta.  This combination of lunch, relaxation and an untroubled snooze leads me to comment that I could really get used to being a guest. 

 


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