Female cats in the wild

This morning I am out on game drive with Gren, who is still with us, and his friend Andy, another photographer.

I heard the rain before I even got out of bed, it sounded heavy. There was no moon or stars to lighten the blackness this morning, only the lightening that periodically lit up the sky, followed by the low, grumbling thunder. When we left camp the rain had eased but the air was still cold and damp. It was still dark as we entered the park, the few animals that were around, mostly zebra, looked like shadows in the low-lying cloud. Although the sun was obscured by thick cloud cover the sky lightened and the day began.

We headed to the Blackrock pride area to see the females; we were hoping to see them hunt for their morning meal. There was no question that they would be hunting for food this morning, as they do every morning, the reason being is that between them they have around 12 small cubs to feed.

We came upon 6 females, all together, just looking around. They had spotted buffalo on the horizon; the buffalo were walking in single file and were a good target. The lionesses split up into two groups and started to stalk the buffalo. Our driver, along with other vehicles drove to where he thought the attack would happen, this part is where the guide’s skill is tested. He must look at the whole picture, look at the behavior of the animals and decide on where to put the car for the best view. Our guide is the best, we were in a perfect spot.

. As it turned out, it wasn’t so much a chase as a massacre. The 6 lions had picked out 4 buffalo cubs, they managed to get close without being seen, then attacked all of them at the one time, the adult buffalo didn’t even had time to react, it was all over in a couple of minutes. I was amazed at how they had planned it and executed the plan so perfectly.

They all had something to eat, then one mother left the food to go and get the cubs, then two more mothers followed. Alison knew where the cubs den was, so we drove on ahead to be there when the mothers arrived. It always surprises me how obedient the cubs are, if they are told to stay in or around the den until the mother returns, then that is exactly what they do, this must be a survival instinct that they are born with.

The cubs were so happy to see their mothers. As they approached, the lionesses called to them, the ears of the cubs pricked up and they ran over to greet them, jumping on their mother and each other in the excitement. After the initial commotion and greetings, the mothers started walking away from the den and the cubs followed. I just loved to see the enthusiasm of the cubs as they followed their mother, they have so much energy, a real zest for life, it’s tough to think that anything bad might happen to these little ones in the future.

As they arrived at the first carcass they came across, one of the other females was feeding in on it, two of the mothers immediately chased her off, and they were none too gentle about it. I was told that yesterday when the females and cubs were feeding on a kill one of the males tried to join them, that was a mistake on his part, five of the females turned on him, causing him some injury, one of the females went directly for his manhood, they were not messing around. For me, I’m happy that the females are prepared to defend their cubs so ferociously. Once they had dispatched the other female the cubs were called, and they rush in to get their share of the meal. Even this is a game for the cubs as they jump on the carcass and push each other as they try to get a good position.

A group of elephants stroll past, not too far from the kill, although there is no real danger, still the mother keeps watch while the cubs eat. Eventually other females join them, it is nice to see the big family together, playing and squabbling over the food. The cubs are always watching what’s going on, discovering what’s acceptable and what’s not, taking their cues from their mother. They must learn lion etiquette at an early age.

When they were almost finished, we left them, to find somewhere to eat our own breakfast. Now they would either return to the den or find a shady spot to laze around for the rest of the day.

Next, after driving some distance we came to a tree with the female Leopard known as Kazuri in it. The tree had dense leafage, so she was fairly concealed. It was agreed that we would wait for a while to see if she would come down. Since it was still very cloudy, it was warm but not too hot, so the wait was comfortable. Other vehicles came, took photos and left, just us and one other vehicle stayed and waited. Kazuri has a female cub, named Nantito, who is almost independent and so spends much of her time by herself.

Alison spotted Nantito a couple of hundred meters away, she was lying in the grass, but not coming any closer. By now it was lunch time and Alison suggested we drive a little way, have lunch, and then come back. We agreed. We had only gone about a hundred meters when a call came in from the other vehicle to say Kazuri was awake and about to come down, so we did an about turn and raced back to the tree.

We arrived in time to see her get up and come to the top of the tree trunk before climbing down the opposite side of the tree. Nantito must have been watching her because once Kazuri was on the ground, had marked the tree with her scent and moved off, Nantito then came walking toward the tree and followed her mother, although she was clearly nervous of the vehicles, the way she walked, hesitantly, stopping every now and then to sniff they ground for the scent of her mother possibly for reassurance. Kazuri didn’t get too far before she found another smaller tree that she liked and settled down in that. Nantito also stopped not too far away and settled down once again in the grass. The photos on the left are Kazuri and the photos on the right are Nantito. Although they look very similar there are small differences.

On the way to find a nice spot for lunch we saw a single cheetah all by herself, out in the open, panting heavily because of the heat, it was still cloudy, but the heat now was oppressive. Alison said it was a female, I am still not able to tell the difference between males and females without getting a closer look, which is not a good idea with wild animals. Her name is Nora. We passed her again a little later, on our way back, she was still in the same place where we had left her.

After a late lunch we saw a few vehicles gathered in the distance, so we drove over to see what they were looking at. It was two more Leopards, one was sleeping in the bush and the other, we were told, was in a hole in the ground. Since the Leopard in the bush was well hidden the driver took us over to the hole, it wasn’t a very big one and I couldn’t believe there was a fully grown Leopard in it. We were only there for a few minutes when the leopard emerged, it was Luluka, another female. She sat peacefully next to the hole while everyone took photos of her.

It was now time to head back to camp, but what an amazing day we had with all the female cats.

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