It is amazing how each season differs. Last season we had leopard madness around the camp, with leopard kills around the waterhole, to the honeymoon couple enjoying some time in the lookout banda.
This season the lions have been around, with Bibi’s pride (Bibi – Grandmother in KiSwahili) of seven, frequenting the camp.
One will often see if the lion sightings are frequent and good, then the leopard sightings start becoming more difficult, due to competition. Lions don’t like and tolerate any other competition from other predators, so will kill them if found. So due to this these spotted cats become even more elusive to see.
Lake Manze as you would have read has been a constant lion hunting haunt, with several kills, and these prides almost killing on a daily basis. Great for photography, with some good sightings of three main groups, of which one of them, a group of 5 or 6 lions, two adult lionesses with four sub-adult lions, has been killing wildebeest very frequently, and greedily, with us seeing them almost with a meal every day. This isn’t the normal behaviour of lions, killing and eating a wildebeest every 2 or 3 days.
In some sightings we have had one female, heavily panting with an adult wildebeest bull which she has killed, and then 200m away the rest of the pride with an adult wildebeest cow, which they killed at the same time. The following day, same pride, still full from the feast the day before, with another fresh kill, a little excessive if you ask me, but if the food is coming in, the opportunistic behaviour kicks in.
Another pride which we had the pleasure of watching hunt successfully, is two adult lionesses with each having two cubs, one set of two cubs now four months or so, and the other two older, somewhere around 6 months. Salum had located them, and as we entered the sighting, he let us know that the females where stalking a herd of wildebeest, whilst the cubs lay hiding in the long grass. I got the vehicle into position, and watched it unfold. The females waited, as the wildebeest and impala made their way to go and drink, patiently assessing every moment and movement, and watching as all the individuals had gone past, before they started moving.
If they decided to move to early, they would have been spotted and the alarms calls would have started, giving their position away.
Initially both moved together, but the older female soon realised it would be good to sweep around. One female began her approach, wildebeest and impala spotting her, started the alarm calls and fear set in. She started herding them in the direction of the other female, which had made her way into the thickets. As the ambush was set, the female herding the wildebeest, started to push and run at them, causing them to rush towards the unseen female.
As we sat, we watched all this unfold, and a familiar sound came from behind the bushes, the gurgling sound of a successful hunt. We rushed over to find the lioness clutching a wildebeest calf by the throat, and begin to drag it to some long grass, where they could conceal the kill, from prying eyes.
Once satisfied the calf was dead, and out of sight, the four youngsters were called in to enjoy the meal. A fantastic sighting and always an honour to watch a successful hunt, with two experienced hunters.
The third group is two females, but with 5 cubs in total, three very small young cubs and two older cubs. We had a great sighting of them playing very close to the vehicle. We had found two male lions, two of the three musketeers, just lying under some bushes watching life pass them by. But what caught our interest was vultures, swooping down behind them. One of the two musketeers had definitely had something to eat as his stomach was quite distended, so we decided to investigate. On arrival at a little lookout point, we found ourselves watching two lionesses chasing wildebeest, which in this case had the upper hoof. The two lionesses tried their best to make a kill, but with no success. After some effort and serious excursion, they decided a good rest under some palms was very important, although the baboon troop in the palms didn’t quite agree with the lionesses below them. We watched this funny situation of these baboons trying to decide what can be done, as it wasn’t the ideal place to find themselves, barking and shaking branches to create some response, or efforts to chase the lions off, which had no avail.
After some minutes, the two males we had left resting had made their way to the two females. One of the lionesses immediately got up, and started urinating on some bushes, as the two males approached. This was followed by the lionesses moving to some bushes, whilst uttering contact calls for their cubs, as the males inspected the scent of the urine. A lot of animals will display Flehman, which is them curling the upper lip, flicking their tongues up and down, which sends the scent molecules of the female’s urine into the organ of Jacobson, or the Vomeronasal organ located in the nasal passage, which analyses the information and sends it to the brain. This is a way of finding out the reproductive status of the female.
We watched this for a while, and as we turned to where the lionesses had gone to, out they came, returning with all five cubs in tow. Walking past they joined the males, and the whole pride settled in. Still with the nervous baboons in the branches, this time with 9 lions around them.
Memorable moments, and great sightings.