Quite the Hunters

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Posted by Sara Blackburn at 12:00 PM

Marley, Kioni and her four cubs have been resident around Maternity and the nearby luggas for some time now. They’re definitely the lions to watch, as with the four youngsters growing up quickly, there’s never a dull moment with the bunch.
Monday saw the group feeding on a fresh wildebeest kill early in the afternoon – they must have brought down the animal not long after midday. This shows that the little pride is growing in confidence – to bring down a large wildebeest in daytime hours and in the heat of the day requires skill and teamwork.

marley Marley at the kill

The cubs are really cheeky, in particular one of the little girls, who didn’t think twice about pushing Marley over for the best bits! Even some bad tempered growling didn’t deter her. Although their bellies looked fit to burst, they all continued to make the most of their kill before the scavengers set in.

marley and maji Marley wasn’t too happy about sharing!

I headed back over the the site of the kill early next morning, whereby the carcass had been thoroughly polished off. Jackals, hyenas and vultures had all worked through the night to leave only the horns and tail. With so many keen eyes, most kills last little time in the Mara, and even the bones are tasty morsels for hyenas.

sophieeat Mum tucks in

Last night we picked up the group again in the next lugga down. Marley was nowhere to be seen, and Caesar had joined the group. I don’t think Caesar is a threat to Marley, as they are often seen together. Having been over 48 hours since their last substantial meal, the lions were in hunting mode and making a move on warthogs and gazelles. The cubs aren’t exactly perfect yet, ruining most hunts either by breaking too soon or hesitating during the chase, but certainly have the enthusiasm – they should become formidable hunters when they mature.

hunt One of the cubs eyes up a tasty hog

In the middle of trying their luck on the local game, the cubs entertained themselves by climbing trees and annoying Caesar and Kioni. We left them heading towards Maternity as a huge storm rolled in overhead. Perhaps tonight they will have some more luck hunting.

Newcomers at Offbeat

Monday, June 22, 2009

Posted by Sara Blackburn at 11:48 AM

Last week I ventured back down to Offbeat to catch up with the local lions. I knew that the Offbeat Pride of four females were still around, both with Baakir the old male and a pair of younger males. One of the females was also showing signs of pregnancy, so when she left the rest of the pride and tucked herself away into a lugga around the back of the camp, it was time to look for new arrivals.
The first day brought not much luck with the lions, but sure enough next evening we spied two little ones playing in the bush. They were tucked away pretty well, which is usual for young cubs – they won’t be introduced to the pride until they are around six to eight weeks old. We only had fleeting glimpses of them, but I’m guessing that they are around 3-4 weeks old. There could be more – a lioness can have a litter of up to six cubs, though three is the norm.

offbeat girls Lucinda (on the right) is thought to be the mum of the little ones

The guides at Offbeat also told me of some new males that I hadn’t yet seen, and so we continued to explore the area. Early on the last day we found Jade and Imogen –the two other Offbeat lionesses – with a handsome male. He was courting Imogen, and so perhaps we can expect the pride to grow even bigger in three months time!

new male The new male

I hope to spend some more time with this pride, as I know there are more males to find.

The Marsh Pride go Camping

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Posted by Sara Blackburn at 11:52 AM

The Marsh Pride are well known by many people, making their way into the living rooms of millions of people each year as they follow the BBC’s Big Car Diary. Many people will also know that the infamous Marsh Lionesses and their nine cubs tend to keep themselves within a relatively small range, encompassing Musiara Marsh and Billa Shaka. Rarely do they venture out of the park gates.
Recently, however, they’ve been rather adventurous, making their way to the Windmill and up the lugga adjacent to the gates to a patch of trees known as No Camping. For the past few nights, they have remained close to this area along with the two males, Romeo and Mpengo.

lispympengo Lispy greets Mpengo

The cubs are growing up to be real superstars – most of the young boys already have manes much bigger than I would expect for their age. Some of them would put Marley and his brothers to shame!

threeeThree of the young boys

The pride were spread out over a long stretch of the lugga, with Red as usual taking the lead and always on the look out for a potential meal. Next to follow was Bibi, who was not too happy about being left with the kids. Each cub that walked past got a swipe on the nose from mum!

khali Mama gets khali!

It looked as though Lispy had been left behind with the two males – after greeting the pair, she began calling softly for the rest of the pride. She slowly made her way down the lugga, climbing each termite mound to scan for her family. Eventually she spotted the cubs and bounded over to greet them and her sisters.

lispy Lispy looks for her family

Yesterday the males had moved on without the pride, possibly on the look out for other females. They were found relaxing in the evening sun at the edge of Kichwa Tembo with full tummies.
Today I am heading down to Offbeat Mara, to have another look at their lions. There is news of some new cubs, so I am hoping they will make an appearance.

Zawadi puts on a show

Friday, June 12, 2009

Posted by Sara Blackburn at 8:43 AM

Over the past couple of days, Zawadi, the famous leopard from the BBC’s Big Cat Diary, has been hanging out around the Windmill by Musiara gate. Whether in a tree or lounging on a termite mound, she loves posing for the camera.
zawadi Zawadi chills out
After relaxing in a tall tree and observing her surroundings, she began exploring the area, even making a move on a nearby impala. She’s an old girl, but still breeding, and has two older cubs. They didn’t make an appearance this time, and are becoming more and more independent.
On lion news, it’s been pretty quiet lately. Siena and Stacey were seen with the two cubs near to the gate, so it is possible that they have made their way into the park. Perhaps they were just visiting whilst our resident River Pride lions are away?

Siena finds a new man

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Posted by Sara Blackburn at 3:18 PM

When female lions come into season, they tend to attract any males that may be around the area. This works to the female’s advantage, as a number of males may believe that they are the father of the cubs. Infanticide is common in lions, often carried out by new males if they overtake a pride male or discover cubs sired by other males. By mating with both the pride male and any outsiders, the female is ultimately protecting her cubs.
So why does the pride male allow his mate to partner with other lions? By mating with a female as often as every 20 minutes over a period of two or three days, the pride male does his best to ensure that she conceives whilst in his presence. As the male is confident that he is the father, further attempts by other males are of little concern to him. This is mostly true, and so the female is able to increase her own chances of rearing her offspring to adulthood. Males may be so assured to the extent that they will even tolerate other males mating in his presence.

jonah walk Romeo follows Siena closely

So whilst Siena may have mated with Caesar for several days, she still advertised her position to other males. Romeo (star of BBC’s Big Cat Diary) was quickly on the scene as Siena made her way towards Leopard Gorge and nearer to the Masai Mara Reserve. Romeo is easy to identify, as he has a large notch out of his right ear, a scar on his top right lip and a small tail tuft.

Jonah Romeo has a large ear notch, just visible here, and a scar on his top lip.

Having a fine male at her side didn’t stop her from attempting to grab a meal, and in true Siena style, she began stalking some nearby zebra, until an eager Romeo blew her cover. She obviously wasn’t pleased, and a short while later, Siena was seen sunbathing on her own.

siena stalking Siena spots a zebra – she’s quite the hunter!

Romeo is one of the resident males of the Marsh Pride, and so he may have made his way back to Musiara. I’ve written the date of their pairing in my journal, and so three months from now I’ll be keeping a lookout for some little ones!
In other news, Marley, Kioni and the kids were spotted lounging around Mulima Maui (close to Maternity) with full bellies after tucking into a zebra. These lions certainly have a large range, as only the day before they were spotted close to No Camping. I’ll be making my way there later, hopefully to find some more lions.

Friends again?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Posted by Sara Blackburn at 6:32 PM

As pride male, Caesar has been intolerant at best of Marley and his brothers. Now, however, it looks like they have decided to patch things up, as yesterday Caesar left his new girlfriend Siena and hooked up with Marley, Kioni and her four cubs. Whilst the youngsters busied themselves annoying mum, the two boys lay together, even taking time to groom one another. Ahh… I wonder if it will last? It is possible that now he has mated with Siena, Caesar no longer sees Marley as a threat to his position as pride male. Things might change though if any other females in the area come into season.

sophieMum politely tells her pestering cubs to behave!

Still no sign yet of any of the past Maternity lionesses, but in other news, Siena was later on the prowl for a meal, this time around Military and still without Stacey and her two cubs. Maybe Siena will have more luck with the plains game on her own?

New Kids On the Block and Marley’s Family

Friday, June 5, 2009

Posted by Sara Blackburn at 4:19 PM

Since coming back to camp, I’ve been trying to track down the locals. Whilst most of our familiar faces are keeping themselves hidden, there’s certainly no lack of lions!
First to meet were two lovely lionesses with their two cubs. Christened Joy and Siena, they were relaxing in Kichwa Tembo close to some rather curious giraffe. These girls are actually part of the Three Graces, a sub-pride of the Marsh Pride, and not resident to the area. Things got heated when Siena tried her luck at some nearby zebra. Joy left the kids in the bush and crept round to ambush the prey whilst Siena snuck up with such determination that a Grant’s gazelle wandered past ignored. She sprinted and got within a whisker’s reach of a large mare, but couldn’t bring it down. maybe next time.

Joy keeps her eye on the prize

Nearby in Maternity, we found one familiar face – Marley, one of the three young males. You might remember him from earlier this year when he caused trouble with Asali and her cubs. This time he seemed to be getting along with the other lions, and had attached himself to a mature lioness with four adolescent cubs.We've called her Kioni, which means 'she who sees'.

marley's family Marley watches the kids

I saw the pair of females yesterday again trying to hunt, and we left them again stalking some zebra as the light dropped, but Marley and co. had moved on.
And that’s not the last of it – this morning, Caesar appeared close to camp again, mating with Siena. He’s a beautiful lion, and seems to have his pick of the ladies! Except for younger lions such as Marley, Caesar is the only resident male around the River Pride area, and until the younger boys mature, should father many new cubs.

One of the new cubs – similar in age to Asali's.

I have to work hard to find the location of our known lions, and one lioness I am missing the most is Asali and her two cubs. They should be almost 5 months by now. I haven’t found her sisters Mandisa and Tailend either. The last time Asali was seen was close to Musiara Gate leading into the reserve. As we have many new lions around the River Pride area, I will most probably have to look further afield. I’ll let you know when I find her.

Back to the Mara

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Posted by Sara Blackburn at 11:48 AM

It’s been a while, but I’ve just arrived back at Serian Camp after some months in the UK. The Mara is still very wet, and with several of the roads leading to camp either flooded or a mud bath, it took us over 8 hours from Nairobi. After rescue missions involving both my car and other travellers we made it to camp at midnight… phew!

One of the first things to do is to find the local lions. With large changes in the weather and both the wildlife and cattle, I have a feeling that they’re not going to be quite where I left them!


Watch this space…