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This month’s Photo Gallery features a stunning series of action shots submitted by wildlife photographer, Brian Courtenay.

Mid October in Hwange National Park

Mid October in Zimbabwe is a stressful time for all animals in the park as the summer rains are only due mid-November.  There is no surface water in the park (+/- 15,000 square kilometres in extent), the only water is man-made/pumped waterholes.  For the past 12 years Hwange Lion Research, a project of Wildcru/Oxford University, have monitored the lion prides in their core areas, the South Eastern side of this park. Certain pride members are deployed with satellite collars and 10 lions have been collared to date.

Early one morning we set out (before the heat of the day +/- 40°C) on a routine research drive, following much lion vocalization the night before.  We knew there were intruders into the established core area belonging to a +/- 9 year old dominant lion called Cecil, who held this home range for some time (+/- 3 years).  Cecil’s core area is a prime location with a couple of water points and excellent diverse stock of prey species. Cecil enjoys a healthy pride consisting of 21 individuals.

Two nomadic lions (brothers ages +/- 5 years old) had come into Cecil’s turf intending to topple the “King of the Castle” in his own backyard.  To add insult to injury these two youngsters had lured one of Cecil’s girls into joining them.  She was in oestrus so needless to say the brothers had fought for her the night before, the victor being badly bitten on his hind quarter, his eye and nose.

We found the one brother mating as expected, the other brother without injury some 800 metres away!  The two brothers came together; we could see a stand-off, each keeping their distance and no female to view.  Suddenly the female at great speed, presented herself for mating to the uninjured suitor.  He mounted immediately and as the mating began his brother leaped into the arena to stop what he had enjoyed for the past 12 hours.

This resulted in a free for all, which at one stage looked like the “boys” were fighting her.  She was bowled over and ended up fighting a vicious attack from her lovers!  She managed to escape and headed for the hills while the ‘boys’ continued to fight.  At the same time Cecil was doing his morning patrol and, hearing the commotion, announced himself with some very vocal roars.  The two “lover boys” took flight with Cecil in hot pursuit, which he kept up for 4.5 kilometres!  Cecil returned to the honeymoon suite sniffing around and grunting in disapproval.  He sat around for a while calling for her “Ladyship” but to no avail.  We caught a glimpse of her a mere 100 metres away from him slinking and cowling and getting away before the “boss “gave her a hiding for being permissive!

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