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Life and Death on the Mara, Dec. 2012

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Post  Safariman on Tue Feb 19, 2013 12:10 pm

For most of the wildlife one sees on safari life is always a matter of survival from one day to the next. For the predators, if they do not kill they do not eat. It is not the prettiest of sights to see any animal killed but it is what happens and you should not ignore or pretend otherwise. For the big cats most hunts end in failure and there is always the chance of serious injury which would result in them being unable to hunt and hence not be able to eat.
The following are some of the incidents I witnessed on my trip to the Mara North Conservancy in Dec. Some of the photos are not great as they were taken at a very long distance but I have included them to show what happens. I have also omitted the most gruesome of the photos so I hope I do not upset anyone, but it is real life!!
The first incident happened when I was watching the lion cub and her big sister (see my earlier post). One of the other Offbeat Pride females slowly roused herself from her slumbers and wandered off out of sight. She crossed a small river and went to the other bank and when we next saw her at a considerable distance away she effortlessly took out a baby impala and quickly consumed it with an expectant jackal looking on. The photo is not great but you can just make out the lioness and her kill and the jackal. The rest of the pride totally ignored what was happening.

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The next photo shows the young lion cub being confronted by two old buffalo bulls, fortunately for her she quickly moved away and the buffalo did not seem too interested. Being natural enemies the buffalo would not have hesitated about killing her if they had the chance!

Life and Death on the Mara, Dec. 2012 P1060413

Later the same day we were returning to camp after sundowners we picked up two female lions of the Offbeat Pride with our spotlight and started to follow them. The spotlights are fitted with a special filter which in theory means the light should not blind any animal caught in its beam and therefore not interfere with what is happening. The lions were hunting and soon found a small herd of Thompson's Gazelle. The reaction of the lions was instantaneous and picking out a suitable victim gave chase but to no avail. Thinking that they would now give up one of them however quickly changed direction and somehow brought down another fleeing gazelle. By the time the lion had flattened its victim the second lion immediately joined in and started devouring the gazelle from the rear not a pleasant sight. The first lion kept its grip around the throat of the gazelle for over ten minutes before attempting to eat meanwhile the other lion had eaten the majority of the tiny carcass. It would seem that with a very small kill it is best to let another predator make the kill and then you can enjoy the fruits of its labour with little effort!!
Another vehicle from camp joined us however the occupants quickly asked their guide to drive on as they were upset by the sight of "Bambi" being eaten. Sadly what they saw was reality!!!
I don't have a problem with watching a kill, it can be gruesome but it is what happens. However I am not so sure about following hunting animals with a spotlight and a couple of times on night drives when we spotted lions obviously hunting I asked David my guide not to follow them. I feel that even with a filtered spotlight there is bound to be some interference with what is happening and I would not want to feel that by joining in the hunt that I was favouring hunter or hunted.

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The next incident was while watching a cheetah. He is a male cheetah called "The Runner" as he always chases anything he sees just for the fun of it. I will do a separate post on him later. We had watched him for some time and he could see in the distance a warthog family and a Thompson's gazelle. He immediately took off at high speed even though there was no cover and they could easily see him. By the time he reached the area they had been they were long gone. A lot of effort for no reward.

Life and Death on the Mara, Dec. 2012 P1060416

We had been watching the "Cheli Pride of lions who were trying to lay an ambush at a waterhole on some unsuspecting wildebeest and zebra but they were too far away and the bird alarm calls warned everyone of their presence. Driving on we then saw two other members of the pride and we watched as thy easily took out a baby warthog. Barely a mid-morning snack and as with the gazelle killing the lion that had made the kill kept a tight grip on its victim while the other enjoyed its meal and had eaten most of the carcass before the other had a chance.

Life and Death on the Mara, Dec. 2012 P1060811

The final incident occurred early one morning.Soon after leaving camp we saw two old buffalo bulls who tended to hang around camp a lot and they were being watched by two sub-adult lions of the"Offbeat Pride". The stand-off lasted for a little while before the lions made a half-hearted charge and the buffalos scampered off. It wasn't a serious confrontation, just an everyday happening on the Mara.
The final photo shows the lions moving off with one having her tail held high and curled up, a sign to the rest of the wildlife that says I am no longer hunting!!

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Life and Death on the Mara, Dec. 2012 P1050811

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I have just heard that sadly neither of the cubs born to one of the lions of the "Offbeat Pride", probably while I was staying there, have survived. Life and death on the Mara!!

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Post  Laikipia on Tue Feb 19, 2013 5:27 pm

Thanks for another fascinating account of your trip to Mara North last December. I agree it is always sad to see a kill, especially one as it happens but predators need to eat too and it's the circle of life.

As ever some great photos, a wonderful account of your safari and some sad news at the end about the cubs, but as we know the survival rate of a lion cub is not great.

Thanks for sharing.


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Post  littlewid on Tue Feb 19, 2013 8:16 pm

Safariman I am one of those "Bambi" girls and don't make apologies for it, however I am wise enough to know it goes on and that our Big Cats have to eat and that their dinner is not served on a plate, but I too would have asked the driver to drive on. I suppose we all have our limits even though we are aware of the reality of life and I would not wish our cats to starve for the sake of us Bambie girls.
For the braver of heart who can cope with the emotion of the circle of life, it must have been an experience to see the chase, even though as you say it is not always successful and takes a lot of energy.
You do not write your account in a gory fashion and I am grateful the most gory pictures were not included as I was brave enough to read the post and see the pics, although I will admit to skimming quickly through the kills.
I looked at the Buff and thought how wonderful is he, i'm glad he lived to see another day but I am also glad the cubs wasn't chased and killed by them.

Very sad news about the little cubs not surviving, it's tough when it's an older animal that doesn't survive but when cubs loose their lives it hits a little harder.



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Post  whitestarling on Wed Feb 20, 2013 10:05 am

Your right Safariman we have to realise there are two sides to nature, the beauty, and the beast. Without the beast there can be not beauty, there can be no cuddly Lion, Leopard, and Cheetah Cubs. The Ahhhs come with an Ugggg sadly, as nature is balanced, right from the smallest insects up to the apex predators, everything needs food to gow, and recreate its species. Nothing show this better than Africa, and nature will always find its balance. The only creature to upset this balance is the human race, and I'm sure as David Attenbourgh said it will do that one day. I think your right about the vehicles at night, and well done for asking your driver not to follow the Lions, whether the light can be seen or not, I wonder with all the night time stuff going on with film crews ect, even with infra red, and heat cameras if the prey species are begining to associate vehicle sounds at night with the prescence on predators making them more wary, and affecting the hunts. So there is the beauty, and the beast, and we need to be aware, and acknowledge it. But what we do'nt need to do is glory in the best part, and your post is exactly right, its in the right tone, and explains what happens without sensationalising it unlike a lot of people, and site do.
Thanks for another very valuable contribution to WAA Safariman

If I can make somebody smile, my day has been worthwhile

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Post  Doogs on Thu Feb 21, 2013 4:27 pm

Sorry Safariman, just catching up on this thread now Embarassed

I must say I love the thrill of a kill whilst out on Safari and we have been very lucky to witness one 4 out of the 5 times we’ve been, I’m sure we didn’t see one last year ! scratch As you have said SM if the predators don’t kill they do not eat and although none of us like to see a life taken my perspective on the matter is that the animals the big cats kill are in abundance compared to worryingly decreasing numbers of the big cats, in my mind that justifies their kill !

Wherever there’s a kill there’s usually a Jackal lurking about in the background Laughing

Good stand-off picture of the lioness & buffalo.

Those are great shots of the lioness with the Tommy kill especially as it’s obviously dark outside.

Well done you for asking your driver / guide not to follow with the spotlight, very respective of you cheers

I always feel a wee bit sorry for the lone Cheetah or Leopard hunting, it's not easy for them They don’t have the same back-up that a lion with its pride does

Nice light in the lion/warthog picture Cool

“having her tail held high and curled up, a sign to the rest of the wildlife that says I am no longer hunting” – thanks for that info, didn’t know that Wink

You were certainly very lucky on this trip regarding ‘hunts’, some people can go many times on safari and never see one !

Disappointed to hear about the Offbeat Pride cubs Crying or Very sad

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Post  gregrowlerson on Sat Feb 23, 2013 8:00 am

Not too gruesome with your story Safariman, and as always you provide good humour (the lion beginning its eat from the rear) and info (the lioness with tail up meaning it is not on the hunt).

It's the circle of life, and nothing wrong with people somewhat enjoying a kill vs. those who'd prefer to look away. LW, much better to be a Bambie than a Bimbo Laughing

It's a difficult one with these safari searches at night, because that is when a lot of the animals are out and about. So on the one hand I would want to see a leopard (and night might be the only opportunity when they are more active), but also would not want to ruin its hunt due to bright car lights. Another catch 22?

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