Our lion population is GROWING! Both Mayenga and Maleherehere are both showing signs of denning. Maleherehere or "Shy One" has been denning for several weeks. Though we have not confirmed the number of cubs yet, we excited about the prospect of her pride growing. When we first started our program, Maleherehere was in a pride of two females with 4 cubs. In 2015, her pride mate was killed and only two of the cubs have made it to sub-adulthood. In May there were reports of her mating and denning right on schedule.
In early August, Mayenga or "Decorated By the Gods" was seen mating with an unknown male. Recent movement patterns suggest that she has begun denning as well. Lions are pregnant for approximately 3.5 months, so her denning behavior confirms that the observed mating was successful. Mayenga and her pride mate had 6 cubs when we started our tracking in 2014. Four of their cubs have died, but two females cubs are nearly adults now- doubling the size of the pride. With the new cubs, we hope that their pride continues to grow as the region starts to show signs of stability after the devastating poisoning events of 2013.
In other very exciting news, we have received our new satellite tracking collars. Next month, we will deploy all 6 collars (4 on our current study animals and 2 newly identified lions). As part of the darting effort, we will be working with colleagues from National Geographic to video lion behavior with CritterCams. The CritterCams are small, lightweight cameras that are secured to the lion's collar to give a "lions-eye-view". We will use this footage to show villagers a new perspective on the lions living in their area.
With the new cubs in the area, we are also hoping for accurate litter count and exciting footage to share with you all! Stay tuned.
A Big Thank You to the communities of Gunotsoga, Eretsha, Beetsha, and Gudigwa for collaborating with us to help protect their livelihoods and the regional lions. Our work would not be a success without their active interest and support.
Thank you National Geographic's Big Cats Initiative, WWF Netherlands INNO Fund, SPOTS Foundation, Experiment.com and all of our donors for helping us purchase these collars to continue our vital lion tracking and early warning system.