Cat Fight

Monday, May 24, 2010

Posted by Sara Blackburn at 8:16 PM

It’s no secret that many of the savannah’s predators don’t get on. Whether it’s through competition for food or as a threat to their young, lion, leopard, cheetah and hyena will do their best to avoid each other or drive the opposition away, depending on the pecking order.

Even though they generally occupy different habitats and specialize on different prey, lion and cheetah definitely don’t mix. On a hunt for lion, I came across three cheetah brothers who sometimes visit the MNC. These boys – Honey’s sons – are spectacular; they’re fit and healthy, probably owing to the fact that they hunt cooperatively. Looks like they’re learning a lesson or two from our social cats!

cheetahspray The three cheetah mark their territory – they have a huge range

The cheetah suddenly became nervous, and I could soon see why. In the distance loomed two big male lions – a serious threat to the three sleek, thin-framed cats. Even though they’re the fastest animal on land, cheetah can still be outwitted by lion over longer distances.

cheetah Time to make a run for it!

The boys made a run for it, with the two males hot on their trail. I identified them as Samir and Shambe – two of the three boys who have been mating with Lilly, Sita and Nura from the Cheli Peacock pride. The males looked thin, and certainly weren’t going to tolerate the competition.

Shambe chases the cheetah 

No sooner had the cheetah scarpered, then a strange lioness appeared. She approached with caution, but was greeted warmly by the pair. I identified her as Joy, one of the three Graces. Not only then are the Marsh Pride out and about in the MNC, but their sisters, the Three Graces, are paying a visit, too.

joygreet Joy approaches cautiously

Joy still has two adolescent cubs, and isn’t ready to have another litter yet. But who knows if one of these boys will be the father of her next cubs? With Siena babysitting, the rest of the pride are still around the area. I’m off to go find them and see what else they get up to.


Introducing the New Website!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Posted by Sara Blackburn at 4:42 PM

The beauty of the Mara Predator Project is that anyone who visits the Mara North Conservancy, surrounding conservancies and the northern reaches of the Masai Mara can take part and help us to monitor lions. This is because we use non-invasive methods to identify and track lions, which are simple and easy to use.

me with marsh lion small
When a lion is found, it is identified. We don’t need to use collars to track our lions.
We’ve redesigned our website to make it easy for everyone to take part in monitoring lions. Guides and visitors to the area help to track lions by photographing them, and trying to identify which one they’ve seen. The new website makes this a lot easier, by narrowing down potential lions by their gender, age, location and distinguishing features such as mane size and nose colour. The correct lion can then be picked out by studying the whisker spots and ear tears.

screenshot copy

You can search for your lion using key identifying features

The new website has tons of information on how to identify and age lions, and how to take part in the project. One cool feature is that each lion has its own sightings page, allowing anyone to track where the lion was last seen. The new site also has a section for each conservancy and participating lodge.

It’s easy to take part – the online guides show you how

A huge thank-you goes out to the guys at Bespoke Internet, who worked hard to produce a wonderful website and fully functional database – not an easy task. It looks brilliant, too!
Visit the new site at

The Cowardly Lion!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Posted by Sara Blackburn at 3:57 PM

Yesterday I heard that two new males had gotten themselves in a spot of bother. Long story short, one lion had to rescue his brother from a very angry herd of buffalo!
Becky and Matt, two guests at Serian Camp, saw the event unfold. After finding Nura (Silver), the couple noticed a herd of buffalo surrounding a tree. The herd looked somewhat agitated, and so they went over to have a closer look. What should they find but a young male lion trembling precariously in the branches of a thorny acacia?

bufftree This boy’s in a spot of bother!

It’s certainly no myth that lion and buffalo don’t get on. What was this young lion going to do? Lucky for him, help was on the way. Another male, most probably his brother, distracted the herd by circling upwind and luring the angry buffalo away. He led them on a wild goose chase across the plain, giving his brother enough time to slink timidly out of his prickly perch.

tree Is it safe out there yet?

Buffalo will often kill cubs and young lions, and demand some respect. On the flip side, however, buffalo aren’t always safe – in certain parts of Africa, such as the Okavango Delta, male lions specialise in buffalo.They certainly present themselves as a tasty feast, if a lion can get past those mean horns, that is!
These boys are new to me, so I’ll be working hard to find them over the next few days. Here’s hoping they don’t get themselves in any more trouble!

Thanks to Becky and Matt for the brilliant pictures.

The Marsh Pride’s Family Vacation

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Posted by Sara Blackburn at 4:50 PM

This morning I drove out of camp to be met by a gang of thirteen very special lions. Within the bunch was a number of youngsters, along with some familiar faces.
Just outside of Serian, Chemi-Chemi (the spring) is in the northern reaches of the Mara North Conservancy on the Mara River. It’s certainly some distance from the Musiara Marsh, which is why I was surprised to identify the lions as none other than the infamous Marsh Pride.

How many lions?!

Four adults – Siena and Joy, Bibi and White Eye were lazing in the sun with Romeo and a whole assortment of cubs. Joy's two male cubs, now around 15 months old, and six cubs around 5 months old – four belonging to White Eye and two to Siena – were all happily playing in the long grass and exploring their new environment.

climb The cubs practiced their tree climbing skills amongst the Acacia

The pride have been slowly working their way into the conservancy, and have been spotted on a number of occasions. Although they are far from their home, the territory is open, as many of the River Pride lions are residing on the escarpment. Romeo too has visited the area often to mate with new females.
A lion’s pride territory is not as fixed as you’d think. Although lions spend a lot of time in a core area, prides rangers are large and overlapping. However, two prides will not occupy the same shared territory at the same time, and will advertise their presence to neighbouring prides by roaring.

White Eye the one-eyed lioness. A caring mother but also a fierce hunter

The Marsh Pride is also in a state of flux – with Clawed (Mpengo) seemingly absent, Red no longer with us and the five sub-adults from the females’ last litters, the large family has split into a number of sub-groups. It seems that White Eye and Bibi are forming an alliance with the Three Graces – including Siena and Joy – whilst Lispy remains with the daughters of the pride. Lispy has also been seen flirting with two handsome chaps from the border of the Marsh. Perhaps Romeo and Clawed’s reign is facing an uncertain future?
However the pride forms, here’s hoping that the Marsh females will be as successful at raising this family as they were with the last. They’ve got a lot of experience on their paws!