Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Report from Jean Byrd Centre

Photo BFF/Vena

by Bongani Bavuma
week ending 4.11.07

Jools, Jerry and James

At last James is getting used to seeing me around.  Every time I patrol the fence he sits up looking at me with no intention of running away or following, while often Jools and Jerry remain fast asleep. Most of the time James and Jerry cuddle up next to each other and Jools will come in between them and force herself in the tiny space between them. At this point either one of the boys move away or both of them move off to find alternative sleeping spots.

On Friday we fed them by their hospital camps near the gates. We threw all three portions into separate places. Jools came first to claim her prize and she was accompanied by Jerry. James was a meter away from the third portion, and Jools came to claim this third portion for herself as well.  She took it and put it next to the one she had started eating. James went to retrieve it but he was viciously attacked by his mother so he backed off.  Jools then took this portion and put it on top of her first one.  James went to circle his brother and Jerry eventually allowed James to eat with him but that was only after begging for a few minutes. But in the end James got his food as Jools could only manage to take one portion to her feeding spot of choice. She was just greedy and James is too much of a gentleman just like Alam at the Julie Ward Centre.

With guests they tend to be less curious/less interested than some of the other cats, and keep far from the viewing deck.

Kuma

Kuma has been spending most of his time hiding. Kuma knows the difference between the TATA bakkie that I use and the Land Rover that Glen uses to bring the food over, so whenever he sees me driving past or next to his enclosure he doesn’t come out. Even when I do my fence patrols I do not see him, but sometimes I would hear him calling but get no visuals of him.

When we fed him close to the hospital camp, he got the meat and dragged it a few meters from the fence before he started to lick it. Kuma was growling and he was rolling on the meat with his neck and rubbing his body on the meat. His body got covered with blood. Glen said that he has still lots of wild in him, showing these instinctive behaviours.   Most of the time when I take guests up to Kuma’s viewing deck I never get to see him with the guests and in the mornings before the guests get there and when I check on him I will see spots and a tail waiving at me and that will be it! But by the time guests get there no Kuma!

Shada

Sometimes when Kuma doesn’t show up, Shada would be out and about moving up and down looking at Kuma’s enclosure as though she was trying to show us Kuma’s whereabouts!  She did the same the other day while we were on Kuma’s viewing deck but when we got to hers she sat down quietly behind a bush and all we could see was her head.

On all the occasions that I come across her while on a fence-patrol she will either roll over to look at me if she wasn’t already looking at me – or if she had been looking out for me, when I arrive she will look away!

We fed her at the top of her enclosure and she took the meat as usual and ran down the hill with it. I would say 80% of the time she finishes her food on the second day if it was a big portion. Most of the time at night she takes the food back to the hospital camp. That is where I get most of the bones or the remains of whatever she’s been eating.

week ending 11.11.07

Jerry, Jools and James

This week has been very hot, the temperature running between 25ºC and 38º.

Jools is looking nice as the hair she rubbed off in the zoo does not show any more.  This weather she is spending most of her time sleeping.

Whenever Jerry and James hear noise of a vehicle coming through the gate onto the reserve they always get up to see if it is coming to them or not, and when it drives past the Born Free Centre you’ll almost see the disappointment on their lion faces as they fall back to sleep. They spend the early hours of the day sleeping or sitting at the centre of the enclosure on the open grass plane but as the day heats up they always sleep next to the water trough using it to keep themselves cool. You will sometimes see them lazily getting up to have a drink and they would slowly lap the water up.

Most of the time the boys cuddle up together while Jools sleeps with her legs around the water trough and it looks like she is cuddling the water trough. The boys will only put their backs against the water trough, but mum has her ways!

They don’t show much interest in Shada because she stays as far from them as possible, they also don’t follow me around the fence any more which was something that had resulted in them encountering Shada.  We will blame the heat!

On one of my tours with guests we found Jools sitting in the open at the bottom of their enclosure, right next to the fence. We couldn’t see the boys but when Jools went over to their shelter/mini boma we could hear them mumbling as they greeted her.  That is something they do most of the time when she comes over to stay with them. We left them comfortably hiding.  

Shada

When I have guests she repositions herself a lot as if she too has to have a good look at us. This means that we see her a lot although it is from a distance.

The other day I was patrolling the fence and when I got to where Shada is most of the time I looked for her but she wasn’t there. While I was walking I saw her stalking me but I decided not to disturb her.  She was as silent as can be and sometimes she will go around the camp with me but today she had other ideas and that made me realize that she was only guarding her favorite site! 

Kuma

With the temperature so high I don’t blame Kuma for hiding most of the time. The most stressing part for me is when I look for him and can’t find him at all.  At this point I check the electric fencing and make sure that it works properly with no faults, and so I hope that means he is still in there.  Your mind can start playing games!

On Wednesday morning I took guests out and as we went up the viewing deck I saw him coming down and stop by the big dead tree in the main camp. After a long stop he came further down, but still making occasional stops, busy sniffing and scent-marking. It was taking forever to get to the bottom by us, but the guests remained looking through their camera, waiting until he got closer.  He did reach us eventually.  One of the guests said what beautiful markings he had and that he never had seen a leopard like him. Go Kuma!

week ending 18.11.07

Jools, Jerry and James

The temperature this week was about 30°C, but really hot during 9am till after 12 noon.

It looks like Jools might be in season as the boys follow her whereever she goes. (I know the boys have been vasectomised.)  I have seen Jerry trying to mate Jools and they did not mind me being there. Normally they would be aggressive like in the past. The two boys are not fighting with each other at all, as apparently they did in the zoo. All is well with them. This I did mention to Glen and Murray, and I understand Murray has written to you informing you that they will put a contraceptive implant in Jools.

During feeding we gave their three portions and Jools was the first to get her portion and Jerry was second. This time around Jerry did not go to where James was with his food, so James was forced to go and get his own. He walked past us a few time first though.. So we decided to go and feed Shada.  While we were driving off James slowly went to his food and grabbed it as fast as he could and ran off with it.  He is so powerful and fast!  James went where Jerry was and they sat together and each was feeding on their own portions and the mum was about 5 meters away, now and then looking up to look at the boys. Jools would also give growls at the flies that were bugging her, well the boys they did not mind the flies, you could only hear their teeth going through the flesh, they were enjoying it so much.

Shada

This week she has been staying out in the open or sitting in front of her shelter. She was most of the time visible from Kuma’s viewing deck, but as soon as we approach the viewing deck overlooking her enclosure, she would slowly come out and sit in the clearing a few meters away from her shelter but most of the time she gets there long before we reach her deck. She didn’t mind when I had six guests the other day watching her, as she was busy decorating her house. She was digging or scrapping away the warm topsoil so that she lie down on the cool ground. After all the hard work she rewarded herself by sitting on the cool area like a top cat watching us and occasionally nodding as she was falling asleep.

Instead of watching other lions she spends most of her time with Kuma. She curiously follows Kuma with her eyes and when she does not see him or loses sight of him, she would walk to the fence looking for him. Then she would go back to where she was sitting as soon as she finds him.

During feeding usually all the cats are very exited and always looking forward to the food. We fed Shad at the back where the hospital camp is and Den has to help me throw over even an average portion of meat. However, she runs off with it as it it was nothing to her!  Indeed she is a big girl and very powerful.

Kuma

  We saw him a lot this week but he was busy with his own things most of the time and didn’t even bother to look at us. I think he was on the spoor of a mongoose that made its way in to his turf and he was not pleased with this and he was all over the place looking for the mongoose. Well it looked like he did not get it and the mongoose lived another day.

Sometimes we see Kuma up at the top of the camp and it will be just a shadow, but you would see he is rolling around or sharpening his claws. Guests get really attracted about this as they struggle to see a wild leopard in Shamwari, but even more difficult to see Kuma in his camp. Makes you think if you get to see one out there, indeed you are very lucky.

Otherwise he is good and looking well and guests love him. When they get to see even more!

Born Free Foundation
Broadlands Business Campus, Langhurstwood Road
, Horsham, RH12 4QP, UK - Charity Reg. No. 1070906


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