The Two Local Prides

As we leave camp this morning, cross the small river and enter the park we are met with two Hyena bathed in the golden light of early morning, a lovely start to the day. You cannot look at the photo of this hyena and not think they are just lovely. I believe Hyena have a bad reputation just because they are scavengers and although this is largely true, they are also skilled hunters and when working in a pack can take down wildebeest or antelope. Unfortunately, they also try to kill the Maasai livestock causing human / wildlife conflict.

Part of the Sopa pride are again not far from our camp. We meet just four of them, two females and two young males. They are relaxing until one of the females spots a warthog. She walks over and hides herself behind a bush to get a better look and the two young males follow her, although the warthog is quite a distance away, I don’t think he is in immediate danger. The other female looks up as see’s that the others have gone and she doesn’t know where, so she calls out for them, when there is no answering call she gets up, has a little look around and calls again.

We leave them and drive to an area where the other part of the Sopa pride, around twenty of them, were sighted the day before. They were not easy to find.

We pass through the middle of a huge herd of buffalo, at least two hundred of them, a mix of families of all ages, the older ones with large horns that meet in the middle forming a hard shield, younger ones whose horns are just forming and babies whose horns are barely visible. When you pass closely to buffalo, they like to stand and stare at you, it’s as if they are indignant that you are even there. The babies stick very close to their mothers, especially when in Lion territory, and they need to, I have seen how lions target the babies, separate them from their mothers and attack them.

We hadn’t gone far when Ken spotted a group of around six or seven warthogs, what was unusual about this group is that they were all young. Warthogs normally stay together in a family group where the young have the protection of the older members, but these were all young with no adult supervising them, this is very dangerous for them, again since they are in lion territory and lions love a warthog snack.

We found some of the pride halfway up a hill surrounded by bushes and long grass, we had to leave the track to get to them and the going was tough. They must have split up overnight as we could only see seven of them, five females and a couple of young males. I was quite excited though, as one of the females was Selegei this is the Senior female of the group, she is easy to recognize as she is collared so that the researchers can follow and check on this large pride, and I hadn’t seen her for a few months now as this part of the pride had crossed over into Tanzania.

Apart from Selegei and another older female, the younger ones kept sitting up, all looking in the same direction, at what I don’t know as we couldn’t see anything.

We didn’t stay too long with them as we could only do a half day game drive today due to lack of diesel. There is a fuel shortage in Kenya at the moment, of which I am informed is a false shortage due to political reasons that I don’t fully understand.

We decided to go and check on the blackrock pride since they were not too far away. These two prides are neighbours, there territories are very close. As we leave the side of the hill, the track down is very narrow with high sides making it difficult if you need to pass another vehicle, I found this out because we came up behind another safari vehicle that had stopped on the track, the ocupants were looking at something. I stood up to look out, to see what they were looking at, but couldn’t see anything. I asked Alison, ‘what are they looking at?’ He replied, ‘a dung beetle.’ The dung beetle in question was happily rolling a ball of elephant dung along the road, oblivious to the fact that at any minute he may be crushed to death by a passing vehicle. Although dung beetles are fascinating to watch they are not top of the list for a game drive in the Mara!

We move into blackrock territory and Alison spots a few lions in the long grass, but at least here the ground is mostly flat. We discover it is four females from the blackrock pride just relaxing. Driving a little further on we come across four young males and a female. These also were relaxing; it is the wrong time of day for them to be very active. One of the young males had got himself into trouble when ventured too close to a snake and was bitten in the eye, you can see the result from the photo.

He’ll probably avoid getting too close to another snake, this was a harsh lesson for him. There were no cubs around so all the cubs have been hidden, there would be no point looking for them as they would be either in a den or in dense bush and could be anywhere within a wide area. There had been a report that Kazuri the leopard had been seen close by so it was decided we would try to see her instead. When we arrived at the banks of a small river where she had been seen our vehicle and two others scoured both sides but to no avail.

On our return journey we saw the four female lions again in the distance. Through the binoculars I could see that they had their sights on a Topi that was not far from our vehicle so we waited to see what would happen. They began their move, walking slowly towards us through the long grass with only their heads visible. The Topi had no idea they were coming for him or her. The Lions were up wind of us and today it was very windy. They only managed to get halfway before the Topi sensed something, I would say he smelled the Lions and took off leaving the Lions a little disappointed.

We drove back along the Sand River, which only a few weeks ago was high and in full flow, now because we haven’t had rain for a few weeks it was back to a trickle, ankle deep, as you can see from the photos of these two antelope who had come for a drink.

Just before turning off the main road onto the tracks back to camp, we meet a troop of baboons crossing the road in front of us. It is unusual to see baboons this close to our camp, although they do cover large distances during the day, returning to their chosen sleeping place at night. The adult baboons in this troop were foraging on the ground, you can see one mother with her infant. The baby was clinging to her back at first, then the mother moved her down below where she would be better protected. The young baboons however were having a great time playing and climbing up all the trees in their path.

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