Lion 5-a-side!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Posted by Sara Blackburn at 4:38 PM

Marley’s Pride really know how to have fun, and they’re never boring to watch. Yesterday morning I found the gang hanging out on the plains by Military with a freshly killed wildebeest. The cubs were full of energy at first light, and occupied themselves at first by chasing my car and chewing on the tail-lights… I don’t think there was enough food to go around!

football Marley shows off his moves

A few dents and teeth marks later, I pulled up to watch a nail-biting game of football, with all four cubs knocking a rock about with Marley. Not everyone was playing fair though, with Marley needing some serious refereeing over his not-too-light tackles and half of the cubs blatantly getting away with several hand-balls!

ref REF!!!

Um…. REF??!

Mum wasn’t going to let the boys have all the fun, and decided that a little tag was in order. Picking up a wildebeest leg, she darted past Marley and the cubs, only to be brought down in a mean tackle.

legBet you can’t catch me!

After that all the rules went out the window, and the family decided to practice some ambush techniques, leaping into the air and tumbling to the ground. All good practice for when the hunting is up to the kids!
Caesar on the other hand was having none of it, and busied himself with the remains of the kill. Whilst the family were playing, he tried to sneak off with his prize, dragging the carcass towards the bush. One of the cubs noticed, however, and latched onto the wildebeest. That certainly didn’t go down well with Caesar, and he turned on the little one to teach her a lesson. She fought back though, planting some good left-handers on his nose!

full run I’ll show you who’s boss!

After some more fun and games, the sun was getting high and so the family chilled out in the bush. Caesar was still not in the mood for sharing though, and grumpily munched away by himself. Bit of a bad hair day I think…

Learning the Ropes

Friday, July 10, 2009

Posted by Sara Blackburn at 4:26 PM

The Mara landscape changes quite dramatically with the seasons, and with the rains comes tall grass and swampy plains. The rains also mark a drop in the number of visitors to the Mara – not only does it pour down, but even the toughest vehicles find the mud a challenge!
The lions certainly seem to take advantage of the change of seasons, using the long grass and quiet times to their hunting advantage. The long grass is a bit of a trade off – although it provides excellent cover for stalking lionesses, game becomes more scarce.

stalk Bibi shows a classic stalking pose – body close to the ground, ears pricked, eyes fixed on the prey and moving silently and slowly under cover.

The Marsh Pride have certainly reacted to the changes, and are spending more time out of the Masai Mara Reserve and moving into the North Mara Conservancy where the grass is shorter. The four lionesses are usually exclusively night-time hunters, but of late, the lions have been hunting more during the day. Last week saw them stalking wildebeest in the heat of the day – not so typical of lazy lions!

giraffe2 I think their eyes are bigger than their stomachs!

The Marsh cubs are also growing up fast, and are keen to practice their skills. They are full of enthusiasm, but often far too bold and confident for their own good. Full grown giraffes aren’t usually on the menu for lions! Even though they may not get a meal, each bold move on potential prey species is a valuable learning experience, and the cubs are always perfecting their stalking and ambush skills. Playtime is just as important for them, too, as it’s not all about having fun – cub play is full of hunting and social learning.
giraffe While the giraffes focussed on the lionesses, the cubs crept to a close distance

Earlier this week, Stacey brought down a full grown zebra for her 5 month old cubs. This is an impressive achievement for her, and she held it down for some time to allow her cubs to learn some techniques. Although it may seem cruel, life and death is an everyday matter for predators and prey, and if they are to grow to be healthy, independent adults, these cubs must learn to be as successful as their mother.