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.