Hwange lions have been documented for many years, providing valuable information on lion populations and behaviour. Hwange National Park is one of the few refuges where territories can be held, without human encroachment. Elsewhere, their habitat shrinks steadily, with human / lion conflict becoming a sad invevitability. We need to understand these magnificent predators in order to preserve them. Thanks to Julian Brookstein from Camp Hwange for this moving story..
“The story, as I know it, of “Goose”
Anybody that stayed with us at Camp Hwange last season would have surely heard of or been lucky enough to see Goose. Goose is a male lion that was resident on our concession for much of last season. He wa…s named Goose when he was first darted and collared by the Hwange Lion research team in 2005 at around age five. He was darted at Dwarf Goose pan which happens to be on our concession. After this he more or less took up residence in the Nehimba area which is to the east of Camp Hwange.
Hwange is blessed with a very healthy lion population. Almost at its carrying capacity, so with this in mind it tells us that all the good lion “real-estate” is taken. Goose held this Nehimba area for around seven years on his own as far as I know. This is a massive achievement considering that there are always other lions looking to take over your area. He was still holding that area at age thirteen which is basically very seldom done in the lion world. Generally a male lion has around three years between the ages of five and eight to make the most of things as this is when he is in his prime. There are cases whereby older lions are kicked out and may become nomadic and them team up with other males possible younger than them and try and hold a territory again.
Goose in his time as King of the Nehimba area sired many cubs. The ones that are most known to us at Camp Hwange are Daniel, Day and Lewis. Of which we now have Day and Lewis left after Daniel was shot. He is also the father of a lion called Vusi.
Last year in August two new lions that we had never seen before appeared on our concession. One looked much older than other and had a collar. We contacted lion research and they told us these two were called Naxha and Vusi and had come from an area about fifty kilometers away.
Those of you that have read my stories will know the circumstances of how Daniel was shot. After Daniel was shot his two Brothers Day and Lewis stopped coming into our area and moved towards Masuma. I believe that this is what opened the door for Naxha and Vusi to enter our area. They soon realized that there were no dominant male lions in this area patrolling and calling so moved in. They spent a bit of time here and I think realised that to go west meant to go where Day and Lewis were and that going east was to where Goose was. They went east and after a big dust up chased Goose from the area that he had held for all that time.
After this Goose came to our concession, when we first saw him he was in bad shape after the fight and we were not sure if he would make it. He pulled through though. Then not long after that we found him again looking thin and in a very bad way after he had decided to kill a porcupine and had lots of quills in his chest and face. We though he would not make it. Luckily for him at the time it was the dry season so there were elephants dying from lack of water. He managed to find some of these dead elephants and put weight back on and the quills worked loose and again he bounced back.
We were very happy to have Goose on the concession as we could just about find him daily within a few kilometers of the camp. He hung around for some months and all the time acted like he owned the place. Defiantly roaring and scent marking as if to remind the two that kicked him out that he was still around. He was always known as an angry lion. Lions have personalities as do most things. His was just plain angry. Despite having seen vehicle for most of his life he would still charge the car, sometimes after you had been sitting with him for half an hour already!
At the end of the year Naxha and Vusi again came into our area and this is when Goose left our area for good. Obvioulsy not wanting another fight as by now he was basically a pensioner in the lion world. He left and ended up heading towards the main camp area. However he was constantly on the move as wherever he went there were younger fitter stronger lions that he had to stay out of the way of.
Sadly Africa is not what it once was and these magical animals don’t have the territory that they need to roam in. Recently Goose left the park and went into the communal areas that border on the park. The lion research team made the surrounding villages aware that there was a lion in the area. He was I am sure looking for an easy meal in the way of a cow or donkey.
Very sadly a child was sent in the night to get some matches and Goose killed the child. He was shot at the site.
What a very sad way for a child to lose a life and for the story of such a magnificent animal to end.”
For more information on Camp Hwange