The plan this morning is to stay away from the main roads and the many other tourist vehicles, as much as possible, so we drive across the plains just outside our camp and head for the hills. Alison tells us that the sopa pride were in this area just yesterday. There are another three vehicles searching for the pride, they are difficult to find, the terrain is challenging. The hills are thick with bushes and impenetrable, the tracks are littered with large stones and deep potholes, but we stick with it. While searching for the pride we came across this attractive jackal she was just outside her den we sat with her for a while just in case she had young ones and we might get to see them, but perhaps not because she was very relaxed about us being there.
We were about to leave and give up the search when Alison got a phone call to let us know they had been found, they were halfway up a hill and were well hidden. When we reached them, we caught glimpses of the odd one or two, not the whole pride, a couple of them graced us with their present, a female, and a young male. Alison had just received another call about a sighting of 2 male lions, so we head off to try and find them.
We are not the only ones looking for them as there are many cars heading in the same direction. After a while the cars split up, some continuing to look and some head for the river and other areas.
We pass a large group of ostriches that we don’t stop for this time as we are on a mission.
We don’t find 2 males, but we do come across a fine strong male with a female, they are what we call a honeymoon couple. The male has scars on his face and looks like he has been in quite a few fights. This is a good thing for the female because if she has cubs with him, she knows he is willing and able to defend them. Quite often with lions it is the female that initiates the sexual contact, as is the case with this couple. She does this by getting up and walking a few feet away then assuming a position that made it clear for the male what was expected of him.
The actual act lasts for a very short time, between 5 and 20 seconds, and in the case of this lion it was on the lower end of the scale. Afterwards the male lion lets out a load roar and gently bites the back of the females’ neck and the female growls at her partner, then rolls over and lays down for a rest. This performance can go on for days, with the lions copulating almost every half hour.
There are 2 other females nearby, but one is lying down by a stream after having a drink and the other one is eating a meal. She is really tucking into the food, cracking the bones, and tearing at the flesh to get to the meat, using her sharp teeth and powerful paws to steady the carcass.
The honeymoon couple have no interest in the others or of eating during this period of mating.
We leave them to it and drive over to where the 3 male cheetahs were last seen. On the way we pass a buffalo that looked like he had recently been in a vicious fight and come off worse. As you can see from the photo, he is a big grumpy looking bull. Half his horn is missing, and his ear is torn and bloody. Male Buffalos from the same herd do sometimes fight each other, mostly to prove dominance, although they rarely fight to the death, but an injured buffalo like this one is likely to be easy prey for a pride of lions.
We find the three cheetahs under a small bush taking what shade they could find out in the middle of the plains. This was originally a coalition of five males now down to three, ‘Tatu Bora’. We noticed a large herd of wildebeest not too far away, easily within stalking distance for them, so we waited for a while, but they showed no interest in them. Cheetahs only need to eat every two to five days, so maybe they had eaten recently.
Unfortunately, not long after seeing them we got word that another one of the cheetahs had died, as a result of what looked like a lion attack. They are going to do an autopsy to confirm the cause of death. This is very sad news.
After leaving the cheetahs we run into another group of lions. A few females, some cubs and also a Male lion was with them, a very scruffy looking male lion also with scars and injuries. These lions had been very busy, as we looked around several dead zebras and wildebeest littered the area, some partially eaten but more lay untouched. There was far too many for the pride to eat, they had been on a killing spree. Being cats, the instinct to hunt and kill is probably so strong that with hundreds of wildebeest and zebra on hand, they just can’t help it.
This was a very nice morning, with the different lion prides and the cheetahs and now we head for the river to see the wildebeest crossing that I wrote about last week.